Thursday, April 20, 2006

Did Harper actually INTEND to disrespect every Aboriginal person in Canada? 

Or will this be merely a happy byproduct of making Maurice Vellacott chair of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee?
As my husband said, that's like putting Ernst Zundel in charge of a Holocaust survivors' tribute.
There is nothing Harper could do which would indicate more clearly to Canadian Aboriginals that the Kelowna accords are dead. Not only that, but the Conservative government considers Aboriginal people to be second-class citizens, whose history is not worthy of respect and whose concerns are not worthy of consideration.
Star Phoenix columnist Randy Burton's provides the background in his article -- Hard to imagine worse choice than Vellacott:
. . . Vellacott's latest contribution to racial harmony is to suggest that the reason two Native men were found frozen to death outside of Saskatoon is because they were in the habit of going to a shack on the outskirts of town to drink.
This is no doubt going to come as news to the police, to Darrell Night and to anyone else in the city with an interest in this topic.
What shack? Where is it? Can Vellacott provide a tour? Or is this merely another figment of the man's crowded imagination?
After all, the debate over whether the police had a habit of dropping Native people outside of town has dominated the discussion about policing in Saskatoon for years.
It was the core of the case against former Saskatoon police officers Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson, who were convicted of unlawful confinement for dumping Night out of their car on a freezing cold winter night back in 2000.
Vellacott has never accepted that verdict and last year even asked the provincial Justice Department to reopen the case, based on the claim that Night asked to be dropped off.
This line of defence was rejected in the original court case, but Vellacott later claimed to have "new evidence" in the form of a relative of Night's that Vellacott said was living in a Fairhaven apartment complex at the time.
Even if this was true, it does nothing to explain why Night would be left some 2 1/2 kilometres from where he asked to be dropped off.
In any event, the RCMP investigated Vellacott's claim and rejected it. After a review of the relative's rental receipts and the business records of the landlord, police found no evidence the relative had ever lived there. In response, Vellacott said the RCMP "weren't diligent" and "have not done their job."
Now more than a year later, Vellacott has another dead horse to flog. This time, he has a new theory of how Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner died. In an interview with the Globe and Mail this week, Vellacott suggested they must have been drinking in a shack just outside of town and then froze to death when they tried to stumble back home.
For this to be true, Wegner had to have walked five kilometres out of town without shoes or a jacket in order to do some drinking in Vellacott's shack. Of course, he would also have had to be carrying a case of beer or a bottle of whisky. The same applies to Rodney Naistus, who was last seen on a downtown street in front of Winston's pub.
That had to be some nice shack to attract people to walk out to it in the dead of winter. Or if they drove, there would have been some sign of traffic left behind, tire tracks in the fields, cigarette butts, something.
However, throughout the subsequent police investigation and two coroner's inquests, not once did anyone ever report finding any sign of a party shack anywhere on the outskirts of town.
Where Vellacott gets his information I will have to leave for him to explain. His office informs me he is far too busy on his Easter break from Parliament to return phone calls. The reason this issue has arisen is because Vellacott took it upon himself to issue a press release earlier this week saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to name him chair of the aboriginal affairs committee.
Why the prime minister would want to do that is a mystery almost as deep as Vellacott's shack . . .
The CBC reports on the reaction of Aboriginal leaders:
. . . Vellacott wasn't speaking with reporters Tuesday, but some aboriginal leaders were expressing their concerns. "We wonder what kind of message this government, this new government is sending to us having seen the history of the person that's been nominated," said Alphonse Bird, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. "Mr. Vellacott has been very outspoken but not necessarily in favour of aboriginal issues," said M├ętis National Council president Clem Chartier.
When questioned by reporters Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not specifically discuss the Vellacott nomination, but he defended his right to hand pick MPs to chair Commons committees. Harper said he doesn't want Conservatives fighting amongst themselves.
Yes, its just so much better that his Conservative MPs should fight with the Canadians whose interests they are supposed to be representing, I guess.

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