The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, December 24, 2012

We're all Treaty People. Right?

Imagine this scenario...

Mohammed and Muhammed go to Iran, a state that sponsors terrorism around the globe, and they loudly and publicly denounce Canada.

Less than two months later, an organized group creates a diversion at the Winnipeg International Airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year, possibly allowing others to test the placement and reaction of security officers. This happens only days before Christmas Eve, the holiest time of the year in the Christian religion.

Later, following the disruption at the airport, Mo-Hamed, an associate of Mohammed and Muhammed, informs the members of his organization he plans "an explosive delivery" to the headquarters of Manitoba Hydro, the company that provides electricity to the province--- most importantly, perhaps, to the furnaces that heat everyones' homes in the winter. It also happens to be the organization he's had a longstanding grievance against.

He is stopped by security guards when he enters the Hydro building, but is only asked to wait for some official to meet him. He hands the Hydro official a cylinder filled with an unknown substance and tells him "detonation was unpredictable."

Ha ha ha. It's just a can of beans, not a bomb. Ha ha ha. Big joke.

Now, how soon would you expect the RCMP, military anti-terrorism units, CSIS, and the Winnipeg police bomb squad to insert themselves into this scenario? As long, that is, as it's potential Muslim terrorists that we're talking about? But once it turns out to be aboriginal, er, "protesters", that's different, eh?


Why the double standard? Why the racial profiling? Why are the actions of one group perceived as dangerous and an immenent threat, but the same actions of the other are perfectly acceptable?

Now that we see how easy it is to confuse and overwhelm security at the airport, do you feel safe catching a plane in Winnipeg? A person makes a veiled threat in front of a newspaper reporter, who doesn't call police, and he is still allowed to bring a possible explosive object into Manitoba Hydro headquarters? How safe does that make Hydro employees feel?

It's all fun until someone loses an eye. Or a building. Or a husband, sister or child.

The above scenario was based on fact. It happened in Winnipeg as part of the Idle No More protests. Admit it. You have no idea what the Idle No More protests were about except that it was a bunch of aboriginals complaining about something -- again.

This time we can't even blame the mainstream media for failing to clearly explain what's motivating the protestors. That's because Idle No More is a goulash of rehashed complaints (housing, poverty, blah blah) mixed with trendy new complaints (the environment, we hate oil, we're all gonna die) tied with ribbons of quasi-legal jargon and Marxist spin (native sovereignty, duty to consult, colonialism) and hip aboriginal lingo (ancient ways and teachings given to us by Creator here on Turtle Island).
In short, it's aboriginals complaining about something -- again.

Only this time its with a political spin --- the protestors hate the Conservative government. Hence the Stephen Harper = Adolph Hitler sign so prominently displayed on TV news coverage.
We did some digging into Idle No More (roughly an hour more than any of the "professional" reporters) to try and explain better what sparked, as their original news release puts it, the call for

"a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth."

Uh, yeah.

An hour later we think we deciphered it. This started as an objection to omnibus Bill C-45, which, among other things, calls for greater accountability from Indian Chiefs regarding their pay and how they spend their reserves' money. Keep that in mind the next time you see a Chief endorsing Idle No More.

But the main beef with the government is amendments to the Navigable Waters Act which, in a nutshell, will reduce the times the federal government will have to hold an environmental assessment on development projects around lakes and rivers. The anti-oil crowd has jumped on this as a way to stop the Enbridge pipeline to bring oil sands oil to the west coast. The amendments will destroy 500 lakes, they cry. And, wouldn't you know it, the lakes are the responsibility of Canada's aboriginals who got that job from Creator himself. (No, we're not making this up.)

So, to save the world, the aboriginals behind Idle No more want to stop Bill C-45, and along with it to force the government to recognize that Canada belongs to the Indians and anyone else who is here are "settlers" who need to get the permission of the aboriginals to do anything on the land. (We said we're not making this up.)

Here's the best part in the Idle No More manifesto:

"The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources."

Threatening to blow up Manitoba Hydro might be considered a joke by the Chief of the Sagkeeng Indian Reserve. Rewriting history is not.

Nothing about this statement is true. In Manitoba at least.

You don't have to be a constitutional lawyer to read the treaties that were signed in Manitoba. They're online.
Search Treaty 1 and 2, Manitoba. You will be amazed at what you read.

Treaty 1, signed the 3rd of August, 1871, states, without equivocation:

"The Chippewa and Swampy Cree Tribes of Indians and all other the Indians inhabiting the district hereinafter described and defined do hereby cede, release, surrender and yield up to Her Majesty the Queen and successors forever all the lands included within the following limits..." and it gives a description of the lands covered by the treaty. Treaty 2 was signed Aug. 21, 1871 and repeated the language with the exclusion of reference to Swampy Cree Tribes.

There's a saying in the business --- words have meaning. The aboriginal signatories of the Treaties did "cede, release, surrender and yield up"---forever -- all --the lands described.

Webster's dictionary gives this definition of the word "cede": to give up; transfer the ownership of.

The definition of "release" is given as: "in law, to give up to someone else (a claim, right, etc.)"

Surrender, says Webster, means "to give up possession of or power over".

And "yield up" means "to give up, produce".

Got it? For the past 141 years the land we now call Manitoba has been owned by the Queen of England and through her the citizens of Canada.


So the next time some drunken scholar of constitutional affairs stops you to say "Eh, it's my land, eh." politely ask at what university he achieved his degree in constitutional law, and advise him that contrary to his assertion, it's not.

Then there's the claim of the Idle No More crowd about the "spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements."
Wouldn't you know it, but that very issue was addressed in Treaty 1 and Treaty 2.

"... the said Indians have been notified and informed by Her Majesty's said Commissioner that it is the desire of Her Majesty to open up to settlement and immigration a tract of country bounded and described as hereinafter mentioned, and to obtain the consent thereto of her Indian subjects inhabiting the said tract, and to make a treaty and arrangements with them so that there may be peace and good will between them and Her Majesty, and that they may know and be assured of what allowance they are to count upon and receive year by year from Her Majesty's bounty and benevolence."

Right there, in black and writing, as the late Slaw Rebchuk would say, is the intent of the Treaties. The only intent---to open the land to settlement and immigration.

In return, the Queen would give the aboriginal signatories gifts, not from any obligation, but from her bounty and benevolence.

Words have meaning.

A bounty means generosity, a gift or a reward. Benevolence means kindness.
So out of her kindness, she agreed to give the signatories gifts which the Treaty lists as cash, a suit of clothes, a medicine chest, a school in each reserve, and so on. Gifts. Not obligations.

The Chiefs, for their part, had a higher undertaking.
"And the undersigned Chiefs do hereby bind and pledge themselves and their people strictly to observe this treaty and to maintain perpetual peace between themselves and Her Majesty's white subjects, and not to interfere with the property or in any way molest the persons of Her Majesty's white or other subjects."

Bind and pledge carry intertwining definitions which together mean having an obligation and giving a promise to do something. It's a matter of honour and justice which supercedes doing something out of the kindness of your heart.

The Chiefs pledged themselves and their people not to, in any way, molest the Queen's subjects. The word 'molest' in the nineteenth century didn't carry the sexual connotation it does today. Surprisingly, it also didn't mean anything more than it means today -- to annoy, bother, vex or disturb. These days we might add 'a hostile intent' to the word, but that may be more a reflection of the times than the meaning in 1871.

Does disrupting the legal movement of Canadian citizens on the roads and highways count as a breach of the treaties? Does interfering with their airplane connections?

We're all treaty people. Isn't that what all that government advertising said? Isn't that even what appears on Idle No More posters?

Well, who is looking after my treaty rights? Your treaty rights? Our treaty rights?

What lawyer in what government office do we call to protest when our treaty rights are being broken?
Who will go to court on our behalf?

Shouldn't we demand an answer and fight for our rights? Tacit No More starts today.

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