Non-Indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs
Canada is headed toward a confrontation with its First Nations people that could lead to “coherent civil action” that threatens the country’s economic lifeblood, a new book warns. Time Bomb, written by Doug Bland, former chair of Defence Management Studies at Queen’s University, argues the conditions are present for an uprising by First Nations people frustrated by decades of seeing their aspirations ignored by Canadian governments.
He urges people not to minimize the risk this frustration could turn into a rebellion and that Canada’s critical transportation links – railways and roads – are vulnerable to protests that could shut them down and cost the economy millions.
His sober warning comes amid deeply strained relations between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and some aboriginal leaders.
Next week, hundreds of chiefs from the country’s largest aboriginal group, the Assembly of First Nations, will meet in Winnipeg to elect a new national chief and discuss key issues, from First Nations education, to missing and murdered indigenous women, to treaty rights.
“If Canada’s present policies and the historic indifference of Canadians toward the people of the First Nations and their aspirations continue without amendment, and if First Nations leaders continue to assert their right to unconditional sovereignty in Canada, then a confrontation between our two cultures is unavoidable,” Bland writes.
“The critical questions for both societies in such a circumstance are: What form would such a confrontation take, and how widespread would it become?” Bland cites one academic theory that says if a rebellion is “feasible,” it will occur.
In an interview with Postmedia News, Bland stressed he is “not predicting a revolution or an armed uprising.” But he said he is issuing a warning a “confrontation” could occur unless the government and First Nations leaders find innovative ways to prevent one.
He said part of the problem is many non-indigenous Canadians have dismissed recent warning signs: Grassroots movements such as Idle No More and threats from some aboriginal leaders to mount protests to shut down the economy.
“People just aren’t listening to them,” he said. “And they don’t understand how vulnerable the country is.”
Bland writes there is growing support among aboriginals favouring “a unified First Nations strategy for coherent civil action” and people should not ignore roadblocks and political standoffs.
“There is a pattern in these events, a pattern that is in 2014 heading in one way: Toward more demonstrations and confrontations and a gathering confidence in the First Nations communities that their causes can be advanced through the power of ‘activist politics.'”
Bland notes 48.8 per cent of the First Nations population is under the age of 24 and that some of those young people can be transformed into “warriors.”
“These young people, like most of the First Nations population, are concentrated in areas critically important to Canada’s resource industries and transportation infrastructure.”
Bland writes the railways and roads transporting everything from oil and grain to manufactured goods are “impossible to defend”. A small cohort of minimally trained ‘warriors’ could close these systems in a matter of hours.
“All the danger is sitting out there. And getting it wrong is for the government to try to bully its way through this thing. Or for some of the aggressive chiefs to try to bully their way the other way, pushing each other back and forth. It’s going to end up in a confrontation sometime.”
Originally published by the Star-Phoenix, Dec 6, 2014