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The real struggle is to understand

In recent weeks I’ve struggled to understand the comments of member of Parliament Peter Goldring in contemplating the death of the toddler in foster care in Morinville and the comments made about the First Nations and Métis in this country.

In recent weeks I’ve struggled to understand the comments of member of Parliament Peter Goldring in contemplating the death of the toddler in foster care in Morinville and the comments made about the First Nations and Métis in this country.

Goldring would be easy to dismiss if our grasp of history was better than his, but usually it’s not. Get out your history books and read. Be wary of the Internet; most of what I found is not accurate. You’ll need some understanding of the history of three events and what led to them — the Battle of Seven Oaks, the Red River Resistance and the Northwest Resistance (sometimes called the Riel Resistance). You also need to review what is loosely called the Northwest Rebellion. Seven Oaks, Red River and the Northwest were always about the Métis people trying to hold on to what they had built — homes, farms and trap lines against a government determined to take those assets and force the Métis to move on. We don’t call the French, Dutch and Poles who resisted the Nazi invasion of their countries rebels … why would we hang such a title on the Métis for doing the same thing.

The Northwest Resistance had the added component of the involvement of the First Nations, rising up against a governing system that didn’t deliver and often subverted treaty promises with the intent of enhancing the profits of the individuals appointed to be the fair and equitable support system for First Nations.

The Métis were the settlers and creators of a place now known as Manitoba. They had an elected governing body until the government of the day, led by John A. Macdonald, wanted to build a railroad linking the country. The Manitoba Métis were simply pushed from their own land to accomplish this task, yet if they hadn’t already created Manitoba, that task would have been more difficult. Elected to Parliament three times, Riel was never was allowed to take his seat. He fled to Montana, where he lived until Gabriel Dumont came and asked him to lead in the struggle to keep the Saskatchewan lands and homes of the Métis near Batoche. Again the results were not favourable to the Métis and ended with Riel and eight chiefs of allied First Nations being hanged. Not for treason as they were accused but for what boils down to trying to protect what belonged to them.

Often our discussions and judgments of today’s issues about these peoples are tainted with inaccurate history or prejudice. A full 60 per cent of children who are apprehended by social services are First Nations, Métis or Inuit. So what are the issues? Do the judgments about apprehension lack basic understanding of culture? Are children being apprehended based on a cultural norm that is not a measure of care but a measurement of conformity, unaccepting of the traditions of nations and peoples which have existed in the hundreds before the Vikings arrived?

Recently we have seen confusion at the bureaucratic level and rules of policy and the rules of procedure seem to interfere with each other and prevent any real solutions. What we’ve seen is a mess of pottage, made worse by a level of clumsiness at all levels, including the families losing children but mostly by our supposed ‘expertise’ in handling all things.

I think about a 21-month-old baby, learning to live in an environment; it becomes comfortable, knows the rules. When it’s moved to unfamiliar surroundings it will protest, loudly and often destructively.

What is it we need? Something better than what we’ve got, for sure. Enough smoke, Yvonne Fritz; get an education Goldring. There has to be a better way.

Of course maybe it’s just me.

Andy Michaelson is a St. Albert writer and poet.