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To whom it may concern
Re Duty To Consult? Fine. But How? And With Whom? (Feb. 12): Canada needs answers to two questions, both of which will ultimately and likely require Supreme Court decisions.
The first should be to determine who speaks for First Nation communities: the hereditary chiefs or the band councils? Can the Canadian government assign to a cabinet minister the mandate of bringing both groups together? To have those most affected produce a solution would be much preferred over a decision based on imported law.
The second: Does “free, prior and informed consent” imply a veto, as some claim, or is it some lower threshold? If so, what are the criteria for overriding First Nation unwillingness to give consent? This should be thoroughly debated in Parliament, along with a reference to the Supreme Court, rather than being hastily passed into law, as in British Columbia.
These are vital issues and demand a high level of commitment to finding answers. Otherwise, talk of reconciliation will likely continue to be met with cynicism by all Canadians – as will hostile stand-offs on unceded land and aggressive RCMP action to enforce questionably just injunctions.
Graham Ross Victoria
John Horgan should know better than to invoke “the rule of law” in driving a pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Those same words were used by the Mulroney government during the 1990 Oka crisis. The question is: Whose law?
Similar to the Mohawks, the Wet’suwet’en have never surrendered their ancient sovereignty as an independent people. Sovereignty can only be lost by conquest or treaty; unceded land has never lawfully become a part of Canada. Like the Mohawks, the Wet’suwet’en have a system of government that predates European occupation and is still alive. (Band councils merely run the small reserves set up under the Indian Act; any “permissions” they may give are worthless beyond those boundaries.)
In landmark decisions of 1997 and 2014, the Supreme Court upheld Indigenous rights in British Columbia and said that unceded Wet’suwet’en territory may cover 22,000 square kilometres. That being so, no outside government or corporation should have the right to impose its will there. It seems that B.C. and the RCMP are the ones breaking the rule of law.
Ronald Wright Author, Stolen Continents; Salt Spring Island, B.C.
The historic grievances of Canada’s Indigenous people are real and legitimate, and the colonial systems that hurt them are still in place. What meaningful consultation looks like is not a simple thing. For many, the process is about sharing political power, not just acknowledgment that one exists and has an opinion.
Any new process should be empowering, even when decisions are not favoured by all.
Andrew McGinn Cambridge, Ont.
Re Jail Time (Letters, Feb. 6): A letter-writer doubts that overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the Canadian prison population is an indication of a problem within the justice system. Former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, reflecting on her 28 years of experience on the Supreme Court, says that part of the problem may, in fact, be with access to the justice system at an early stage when offences are minor. In her autobiography, she adds that, too often, a lack of legal representation for Indigenous youth at a critical juncture started a downward spiral that culminated in serious criminal activity later on.
The fact that a particular group is overrepresented in the prison system should be a clear indication that something is not working. To say that it is because members of this group commit more crime seems simplistic and unhelpful.
Elizabeth Vavasour Ottawa
Re Constitutions Aren’t Enough To Hold Countries Together. We Need A Moral Check, Too (Feb. 12): With all due respect, contributor Errol Mendes has, by his own claim, been teaching for 30-some years in a world of constitutions and international laws. He believes we need moral guardians to protect our democracies, including political parties, the media, universities and religious organizations. Perhaps Mr. Mendes should step out of his constitutional world and live on the streets of democracy, where the ultimate guardian rules: the ballot box.
We should put faith in our own abilities to manage the morality of leaders, and to terminate their exercise of power if necessary – not appointed individuals who would be beyond our control, and who may or may not know what is best for democracy.
Dick Patrick Toronto
Contributor Errol Mendes’s call for more explicitly entrenched constitutional and democratic morality puts me in mind of New York judge Learned Hand’s wise remarks: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”
There is also Lord Fletcher of Saltoun: “Give me the making of a people’s songs, and I care not who makes its laws.”
All this is to suggest that such measures would need broad popular support if they are to succeed.
Randal Marlin Ottawa
Contributor Errol Mendes’s call for a moral arbiter to oversee the political process is not only frightening, but seems antithetical to constitutional and democratic values. The brazen political manoeuvring of current Western political parties, whether Mr. Mendes likes the tactics or not, have actually been done within the confines of constitutions by people who have been democratically elected. The notion of appointing unelected arbiters to deliver divine rulings on all things politics feels truly Orwellian.
Aaron Nemtean Toronto
Besides faith and morality, there is another institution that gives us some of the values being brought to public service: capitalism.
My diagnosis of what is unfolding in the United States is that U.S. President Donald Trump brings the values of corporate culture and self-interested business leadership – and only these values – to its highest office. We have never seen this kind of leadership in that public space before, at least in my lifetime, and it is ugly.
John Krauser Mississauga
Re Veteran Journalist Christie Blatchford Was Known For Her Work Ethic And Wit (Online, Feb. 12): How very sad, the loss of Christie Blatchford, admired and respected by many newspaper followers and employees.
My father, J. Douglas MacFarlane, city editor of The Globe and Mail from 1946-48, was Ryerson University’s chair of journalism during the 1970s. Ms. Blatchford was one of his star graduates. She was a modern-day pioneer among female reporters and columnists, a giant in the industry, employed by all four Toronto papers.
Passionate about her work, Ms. Blatchford will be greatly missed by one and all. Her passing was much too soon.
Richard MacFarlane Toronto
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