Comment

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

November 10, 2010

People are already set to criticize mayor-elect Ken Hewitt not even two weeks following the municipal election. While they are justified in being a bit skeptical following comments he reportedly made to the Tekawennake newspaper that were published in the Nov. 3 edition, we should all perhaps take a collective deep breath and give Haldimand's new leader some time to take office. After all, the new council doesn't get sworn in officially until Dec. 6.

Hewitt spoke to the Teka about Christie Blatchford's book and is quoted as saying: I haven't seen anything in the book that suggests the Natives wee wrong in what they've done. It's about the reaction of the OPP and was it handled properly."

Surely, by now, there's no longer any need to debate the obvious. The list of criminal acts committed in Caledonia during the past four-and-a-half years is long and tired and doesn't need to be restated for our readership. We can only hope that Hewitt was taken out of context or that he didn't have his morning coffee that day.

After all, as Blatchford told The Regional News, "you can't have a book about the collapse of the rule of law without there having been criminal and lawless behavior that went on unchecked in the first place and led to the collective collapse of nerve.

"I focus on the failures of the state in Caledonia," she stated, "but these things didn't occur in a vacuum. They occurred because people were breaking the law..."

Enough said.

However, it's sad to think that we have to define ourselves as native or non-native instead of all just being people. There are very few pure blooded "natives" living on Six Nations anyway, but in this day and age, to segregate people using race, in body, mind or spirit, is what we call racist, even though it's been done with the Indian Act for the better part of the past century, and with both 'sides' defining themselves. It dehumanizes us all.

Coming to Caledonia after living in Toronto and attending schools where I myself was in the minority, I never had a clue as to the issues facing Canada's Indian reserves and for that matter didn't really hear much about them until 2006, more than three years after I started here. The Indian Act that is arguably at the root of inequality has hindered Canada's so-called native races for years.

What new leaders will hopefully do on both sides, "moving forward" as they so eloquently purport, is tear down some of the constructs that have worn away at the fabric of our society and hindered so much progress in the past and present, squandering billions of dollars and lives in the process. We must start thinking, and believing, that we are all individuals (people), not just a bunch of natives and non-natives.

To do that, some laws need to be changed, But all laws need to be upheld equally.

Politicians simply don't seem to think this deeply. We've put up with five years of buck passing. It would just be nice to see them start doing something constructive rather than beating around the bush for a change, talking about pie-in-the-sky aspirations and dreams for natives and non-natives. Regardless of what jurisdiction politicians have, they can all be influential.

First and foremost, local and provincial politicians need to ensure that development can occur and hold the feet of police to the fire to make sure laws are upheld. Members of Parliament such as Diane Finley need to start thinking about abolishing the Indian Act, something that is desperately required to improve the situation on native reserves across the country. We know this isn't an easy job, but that's why we have people like Finley in place, to get the ball rolling or get grease on the wheels, as some would say.

Toward the end of Hewitt's interview, he started to talk about the "players."

"I'm not saying the group of players that were in place were the wrong ones or their hearts were not in the right place, but it wasn't working," he is quoted as saying. "I hope now, with a group of new players in Brantford, maybe in Six Nations, and here now, that the new chemistry can put just a little more grease on the wheels to get things moving. I'm hoping for the best for both communities."

Perhaps the important thing for Hewitt to remember is that no matter what team the players are on, we are still playing the same game and must each play with the same rules. Otherwise, making nicey-nice, appeasing each other or even taking a stand on the issues isn't going to get anything accomplished, no matter how much time we spend trying.

But that all said, people must be patient and wait to see what Hewitt brings to the table. We might all be pleasantly surprised, although that in and of itself is wishful thinking.