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What the heck is a non-status Indian, anyway?
Lawyer Jean Teillet tells us there's lots more of them now than there used to be.
So who are they? Would it be fair to say that a non-status Indian is a non-Indian? If that's the case, then why call them anything at all with the word "Indian" in it?
Would you call a double burger with cheese and bacon a non-pizza? We don't get it.
If they're Indians, then what apocalyptic event took away their status as an Indian? How do you do that?
If you don't have status as an Indian, are you an Indian? Can a bureaucrat change a person's race, his or her very genetic makeup, with a stroke of a pen? Can a judge suddenly turn you into something you're not with a carefully worded decision from the bench?
We didn't ask if this was logical, since it doesn't appear to have ever had a chance to be that. We're just trying to make sense of it all. You're either an Indian or you're not, right?
So maybe the best definition of a non-status Indian is this: an Indian person that some wise guy in Indian Affairs has decided to throw into some artificially constructed category where the government can then deny his or her rights.
The more we ponder on this the more convinced we become that the term "non-status Indian" is one of the most ridiculous creations of the Canadian bureaucracy of all time.
And that's saying something.
We say you either are an Indian or you aren't, no matter what the Indian Affairs registrar might think. But somebody's probably going to have to pay a lawyer a couple of million bucks before we can say that without fear of contradiction.
The Supreme Court of Canada has laid down the formula for deciding who can exercise Metis rights. Congratulations to the Metis people who came out winners in this case, especially Steve and Roddy Powley.
We're hoping that all Metis people can exercise Section 35 Metis rights. But we'll wait and see on that one. Now that there is a way to deny people's claims that they are a member of group with constitutionally protected rights that might cost Canada money, you can bet some ambitious guy in a suit in Ottawa is looking for a way to turn that into a way to save money.
Let us save you a little time Ottawa. As the courts seem to be saying, stop wracking your brains for ways to keep Aboriginal people on the margins of society. You want to save money and improve Canada's economic prospects? Start getting smart, ambitious people doing productive work instead of wasting their time and talents trying to come up with ways to maintain an unjust status quo.
Canada's Constitution says that the rights of the Indigenous peoples of this land are "recognized and affirmed." The courts now seem to be saying what we've been saying all along. Let's put some meaning into those words.
Canada, you signed a treaty with the Mi'kmaq people. Honor it. Some people got rich by taking the Mi'kmaq's rightful share of resources. It took a couple of hundred years but Canada finally got around to recognizing the injustice of it all. Those rich folks are going to have to give back some of their ill-gotten gain; no matter how much they contribute to the Liberal Party every year.
Native people in Atlantic Canada are going to be able to share in fisheries and the logging industry. And because those resources must be managed responsibly to ensure their survival, we can't just up the take. Somebody's going to have to give something up, and we think it should be those people who have benefited by the injustice.
That's been what this fight has been about all along. The wealthy, influential and powerful have perverted the course of this nation in the name of greed. The courts are saying stop it.
The politicians should listen.
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