Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Something Fishy about them Harper Tories

UVic Law Professor Hamar Foster wrote in the Times Colonist January 2nd 2007 ed. that in documents such as BC’s Douglas Treaties: in exchange for land, BC aboriginals accepted the legal right to both family and commercial fishing. In other words, BC aboriginals earned the right to control their historic fishing grounds and sell fish to white people, in exchange for some land.

In contrast I note that today, Harper Tories (led by both MP John Cummins and long-time Harper colleague Mark Milke) argue that BC aboriginals don’t have a treaty right to commercial fishing - just a fishing right for ceremonial purposes. Harper’s Tories argue it is racist to allow BC aboriginals their contract-treaty fishing rights. They ignore such rights as outlined in the Douglas Treaties, numerous treaty violations, and current legal standing acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Canada.

All race arguments rely upon the denial of facts. But, we should not be fooled by groundless rhetoric. When it comes to aboriginal contracts, race is not the issue.

Profoundly, Hamar agues, “Surely there is something very unfair about taking property away from people because of their race and then arguing that it is racist to give it back”. I believe, it is doubling unfair when the property is a right (such as a fishing right) paid for (with land) and then the property-right is not delivered. For Canada to be healthy society we cannot arbitrarily discredit what people have legally paid. Every one of us should be able to depend on the rule of law to honour both sides of contracts.

In fact, BC aboriginals have paid with land for the legal right to commercial fishing. They are willing to live within conservation limits. And, they are willing/wanting to sell what they catch at fair-market value to anyone that wants the product. The deal was good for BC when the Douglas Treaties were first created and the deal sounds legally sound and fair today.

PS: Being of true Tory decent, it pains me to see the like of Steve Harper so badly abuse the name.

(c) 2006 Victoria BC


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