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Walk Out to Winter
March 26, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

In January, braving -40C weather, 18-year old David Kawapit and half a dozen other young Cree supporters set out wearing snowshoes and pulling sleds laden with supplies from the isolated community of Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec, to trudge the 1,500 kilometres from the edge of Hudson Bay to Ottawa in support of better conditions for aboriginal people. Yesterday, their numbers swelled to about 270 they arrived in Ottawa, where they were met with cheering and wild applause. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt agreed to speak with some of the young people who completed the trek, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper had more important matters to attend to.
posted by unSane (77 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pandas and prime ministers - you can't have one without the other!
posted by sneebler at 7:39 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many Cree would ever vote for this shmuck Harper? How much trade does Harper envisage with the Cree vs with China?

Hideous calculation, but one that most would make......
posted by lalochezia at 7:40 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you for this. Gathering from my Facebook feed yesterday (admittedly biased) this was widely considered a national disgrace. The comments on the Globe article would also seem to support this.
posted by jokeefe at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2013


These guys kicked ass. The Harper government obviously wanted to make this day about the pandas and seriously pushed broadcasters to fall in line, but when the National came up, the Cree were the top story. Bravo.
posted by mobunited at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


The last link is G&M and is blocking me out, so here's an alternate.
posted by mazola at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2013


How many Cree would ever vote for this shmuck Harper?

So he's got the panda vote all wrapped up, then.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Congratulations on runining an otherwise interesting post by taking a gratuitous political cheap shot. Since you bring it up, you know what, cementing a strong relationship with China is more important than meeting with a random group of Idle No More supporters. The whole walk/run/bike a long distance for X cause hasn't been novel for a long time. I would hope the Prime Minister of a country of 32 million people has better things to do than meet with every group of protestors to trundle into Ottawa from across the country.
posted by Dasein at 7:54 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many Cree would ever vote for this shmuck Harper?

Schmuck Harper, yes, but not half the schmuck of Mulroney-retread Bernard Valcourt. Hopefully Valcourt didn't drive to the meeting.

All that way, in the depths of winter, and all they got was Bernard? For shame, Harper Government.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:56 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


So foreign relations are more important than domestic ones then?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:00 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Over the entirety of his time as Prime Minister, he's made his position and that of his government very clear: he doesn't give a tin shit about aboriginal people or First Nations rights, much like every single prior Federal government. I'm saddened but not surprised that he CBA to meet these folks.

On preview: Dasein, Harper has a higher responsibility to the sovereign First Nations people here in Canada than he has to meet and greet pandas. As far as your comments on novelty, well, this isn't entertainment and it doesn't have to be novel to be valid and important. It's not a "gratuitous cheap shot" to point out the shittiness of our Prime Minister ignoring major protests and problems at home to welcome zoo animals.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:02 AM on March 26, 2013 [28 favorites]


The important thing here isn't that Harper has lost the critical Cree vote.

The important thing is that when given a chance to show he's a callous jackass, he knocked it out of the park, and everyone saw it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:03 AM on March 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Actually I am willing to enshrine into founding papers of just about any country that if you walk a thousand KM in weather that will kill you if you sneeze wrong, you get 10 minutes of face time with the king/queen/emperor/PM/whatever.

Even Kuzco was cool with that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


Yeah, the question this poses isn't one about trade realpolitik ("which course of action is most profitable for the nation?"), it's one about the character of the nation as embodied in its government ("does the nation honor its commitments, or ignore them when convenient?").
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:13 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Harper greeted the pandas around 11:00AM at Toronto's Pearson Airport and gave a brief press conference. I assume there's an obligatory luncheon with the Chinese ambassador afterward but that still gave him plenty of time to jet back to Ottawa to meet with the Cree youth delegation and still have it make the 6 o'clock news.
This was a calculated and deliberate snub.
posted by rocket88 at 8:15 AM on March 26, 2013 [14 favorites]


How many Cree would ever vote for this shmuck Harper?

Our elections are different than yours.

Though most people voting in federal elections are likely doing it with the party leaders in mind, we don't vote for them directly unless we are in their riding.
posted by ODiV at 8:17 AM on March 26, 2013


Since you bring it up, you know what, cementing a strong relationship with China is more important than meeting with a random group of Idle No More supporters.

You're right. They're used to being treated like shit, so what's another snub?

Jesus.
posted by Kitteh at 8:19 AM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


he doesn't give a tin shit about aboriginal people or First Nations rights, much like every single prior Federal government

Let's see, Harper's government that established the Specific Claims Tribunal to deal with the immense backlog of aboriginal land claims that had built up under previous governments. It extended the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to those governed by the Indian Act, and it's tabled legislation to provide for matrimonial real property rights for aboriginal women. Harper seems to care a lot more about actual First Nations rights than other Prime Ministers before him, though he may be less given to caving into the self-interested demands for ever more money from the national aboriginal leadership.

You're right. They're used to being treated like shit, so what's another snub?

Good lord, are we really such a nation of entitled ninnies? Walking a long way to Ottawa does not entitle you to meet the Prime Minister. Doesn't matter what cause you purport to support.
posted by Dasein at 8:22 AM on March 26, 2013


'Entitled ninnies'. Really?
posted by unSane at 8:28 AM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


> The important thing is that when given a chance to show he's a callous jackass, he knocked it out of the park, and everyone saw it.

Watch for his poll numbers to go up. Hating on natives is the "acceptable" racism in Canada.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:30 AM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Harper has a higher responsibility to the sovereign First Nations people here in Canada than he has to meet and greet pandas

This wasn't, in any way at all that makes sense to me, even slightly about the Pandas. I bet Harper gives less of a shit about the Pandas than he does the Cree. But the Pandas are very important and symbolic to the Chinese (it's clear from the coverage to me, at least) so this was all about a goodwill and bridge building exercise with a massive foreign economic power. No less, no more.

If anyone thinks that good trade relations with China isn't more important for the Canadian economy than (admittedly crappy) First Nation relations then they're not seeing straight. There is no sane argument for Harper to snub the Chinese Ambassador for a couple of hundred protestors, no matter how justified their protest may be.

Why are people prescribing so much emotional content when the decision was entirely business, and necessarily so?
posted by Brockles at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing you think Harper's aboriginal-only "workfare" provisions in the 2013 budget are also a sign of Harper's caring about First Nations, Dasein.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dasein: "Good lord, are we really such a nation of entitled ninnies? Walking a long way to Ottawa does not entitle you to meet the Prime Minister. Doesn't matter what cause you purport to support."

Flying some endangered animals across the globe doesn't entitle you to preferential trade agreements. The prime minister isn't some kind of vending machine that you stuff pandas into until free trade comes out.
posted by boo_radley at 8:33 AM on March 26, 2013 [38 favorites]


Hating on natives is the "acceptable" racism in Canada.

Sadly, that is absolutely true.
posted by unSane at 8:34 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


All Harper had to do was say 'I'll meet you tomorrow'.
posted by unSane at 8:37 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


'Entitled ninnies'. Really?

Yes, really, if you think a long hike entitles you to an audience with the PM.

The only reason that people are pissed about this is that they happen agree with the protestors. If some anti-abortion activists walked from Saskatchewan to Ottawa, there'd be fucking outrage here if the Prime Minister met with them. Don't kid yourself that you're being in any way principled - this is just cheap partisanship.

I'm guessing you think Harper's aboriginal-only "workfare" provisions in the 2013 budget are also a sign of Harper's caring about First Nations, Dasein.

Uh, you do realize that it's aboriginal-only because the federal government has constitutional jurisdiction over Indians, right?
posted by Dasein at 8:37 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Good lord, are we really such a nation of entitled ninnies?

I'd give your argument more credit if our prime minister hadn't just went and met a cute bear at the airport.
posted by srboisvert at 8:40 AM on March 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


There is no sane argument for Harper to snub the Chinese Ambassador for a couple of hundred protestors...

As rocket said above, it was entirely possible to meet the pandas and ensure good relations with China, and still meet the protestors. It wasn't an either/or proposition. He chose not to meet with the protestors when it was entirely possible to do so.

A quick photo, a few words of 'that's quite an achievement, walking all that way', an assurance that his people would be in contact with them, and even if he didn't actually deal with their concerns, everybody gets something in that the protestors aren't ignored and Harper doesn't look like a callous asshole. (Mind you, probably the protestors get more exposure out of being snubbed this time.)

And nevermind taking time out to have lunch with the Chinese Ambassador, maybe they could even have shared a flight back to Ottawa.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2013


I'd give your argument more credit if our prime minister hadn't just went and met a cute bear at the airport.

The Chinese ambassador is a cute bear? Because that's who he was really meeting, not the pandas.
posted by Dasein at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that Canada enjoys any kind of diplomatic or economic clout with China's leadership is patently ridiculous.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only reason that people are pissed about this is that they happen agree with the protestors. If some anti-abortion activists walked from Saskatchewan to Ottawa, there'd be fucking outrage here if the Prime Minister met with them. Don't kid yourself that you're being in any way principled - this is just cheap partisanship.

You say that as if VE Day parades are exactly the same as the Nazis marching through Paris.

People do things for reasons. The reasons matter.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: some kind of vending machine that you stuff pandas into until free trade comes out.

(Normally, I don't go in for the easy meme, but that was a brilliant line, boo.)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


He chose not to meet with the protestors when it was entirely possible to do so.

Can you cite his schedule? Not being fighty, but how do you know he wasn't in Chinese trade delegation talks or something similar all afternoon? Is that information available before people state that it was a deliberate snub because he had all the time in the world to fit the protestors in?
posted by Brockles at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2013


And Sys Rq Godwins the thread. Nicely done.
posted by Dasein at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uh, you do realize that it's aboriginal-only because the federal government has constitutional jurisdiction over Indians, right?

Indians?
posted by docgonzo at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Swear I'll be there"
posted by humboldt32 at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2013


The idea that Canada enjoys any kind of diplomatic or economic clout with China's leadership is patently ridiculous.

And it'll stay that way if they tell the Chinese Ambassador to go shove it and stand at the airport on his own while the PM stays home, huh...

Didn't the protestors check the PM's schedule? Did they arrange a meeting before they left? Or did they just hope he was available whenever they showed up? A protest is only as powerful as your marketing of it, is it not?
posted by Brockles at 8:50 AM on March 26, 2013


Actually if it was only the ambassador rather than a minister, that cements the meaningless PRness of the exercise.

Anyone who thinks this wasn't a deliberately calculated snub playing to Harper's base is ignorant. The tories have been aggressively pursuing a racebaiting strategy for some time now. The optics of picking China over FNs are perfect: the future over the past, profit over people, embracing the old "yellow menace" and 90s style multiculturalism (Not Racist! SEE??) while intentionally disavowing the complex and ongoing politics of colonialism.
posted by mek at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


And Sys Rq Godwins the thread. Nicely done.

If what you take from what I wrote is "So-and-so is just like Hitler," then, frankly, you aren't so good at the reading.

You called them "entitled ninnies." The most oppressed people in this country. Seriously, dude, get some fucking perspective.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


Docgonzo, Indians is the term used when describing the relationship the First Nations/Inuit have to the federal government, due to the term's presence in the original laws of the country. It has a specific legal meaning in this context. In general popular use, it's considered archaic and offensive.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Indians?

Yes.
posted by Dasein at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2013


The only reason that people are pissed about this is that they happen agree with the protestors. --Dasein

And maybe people are impressed that people will take a 1500 kilometer hike in -40C to make their case known. Apparently Harper, and you, very much don't agree with the Cree's issues.
posted by eye of newt at 9:00 AM on March 26, 2013


Can you cite his schedule?

No, I can't. Whatever meetings he may have had could surely be moved around. He's the Prime Minister. Things come up.

The public meeting at the airport would still be in place. Whatever real work he may have had in the afternoon could have been adjusted had he wanted to meet with the protestors. Whatever he was doing during the afternoon seemingly wasn't important enough to make the news.

The pandas and the ambassador didn't preclude an afternoon meeting (or a show of one) with the protestors, had he so wanted. He's of a position significant and powerful enough that if he wanted to, he could make it happen.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:03 AM on March 26, 2013


So it's just conjecture that he didn't have anything important that afternoon, then. I see.
posted by Brockles at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2013


The approach the federal government has taken towards First Nations is not great. Although last week's budget has been portrayed as a "stay the course" budget, for aboriginal people in Canada it is anything but.

The federal government decided to unilaterally implement a new skills and training program for First Nations (with funding tied to performance metrics of individual participants!) without consulting First Nations at all. Poor Shawn Atleo. First Theresa Spence, and now this.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:06 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only reason that people are pissed about this is that they happen agree with the protestors.

I take from this statement that you disagree with the protestors. Does that mean you disagree with their assertion that they are a systemically disadvantaged group? Do you disagree that the federal government has been negligent in correcting that? Do you disagree that real corrective action needs to take place immediately and the government must initiate that?
In other words, what is it about the protestors' message that you disagree with?
posted by rocket88 at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Harper's schedule is irrelevant, as others have noted saying "I'll meet with you tomorrow" is sufficient. The decision not to meet is intentional, as in his words "we have no history of colonialism" in this country, and are probably just being a bunch of "entitled ninnies" in Dasein's.
posted by mek at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Indians is the term used when describing the relationship the First Nations/Inuit have to the federal government

Actually, just to be pedantic, Inuit are not status Indians under the Indian Act. Status and non-status Indians (also called First Nations), Metis and Inuit are all aboriginals. The terms are often used loosely, but I was using Indians in the specific sense of people with rights under, and subject to, the Indian Act. And plenty of First Nations/Indians refer to themselves as Indians.

Apparently Harper, and you, very much don't agree with the Cree's issues.

I'm not sure what issues you're talking about. I've looked at all the links and the closest I can see to a political statement is, "This is a strong message to prove to other First Nations across Canada that the Cree Nation of Quebec are not sellouts, but keepers of the Language, Culture, Tradition and more importantly; today, we still carry the sacred laws of our ancestors."

So they're walking to show they're not "sellouts" and they "carry the sacred laws of their ancestors." That's not a statement of issues, it's not a political agenda - it's a blank canvass onto which their cheerleaders can project their own political agendas, whatever they happen to be.
posted by Dasein at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2013


It is really worth remembering that what Harper's Canada (TM) says they are doing has very little in common with what they are actually doing. Even the titles of their documents and departments are often vast departures from the contents and activities of those departments.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2013


For those of you unfamiliar with our polar-bear-loving ways in Canada, talking about anything related to the Federal Govt and First Nations People is about as productive as an Israel/Palestine discussion between Mossad and the PLO.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:15 AM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The next time I hear someone in middle-age wonder about the disaffection and apathy of Canadian youth, I'm going to remind them of this incident.

The reserve system was established, in part, to balkanize and isolate natives from the rest of the country, with the former hopefully inhibiting their ability to organize and the latter hopefully allowing the whites to forget just how shameful the whole damn history has been.

Daniel Kawapit and his fellow Cree not only overcame the difficulty of a nothern Canadian winter, but overcame a geography that was laid upon generations ago to intentionally scuttle any chance of this kind of thing happening.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure what issues you're talking about. I've looked at all the links and the closest I can see to a political statement is, "This is a strong message to prove to other First Nations across Canada that the Cree Nation of Quebec are not sellouts, but keepers of the Language, Culture, Tradition and more importantly; today, we still carry the sacred laws of our ancestors."

So they're walking to show they're not "sellouts" and they "carry the sacred laws of their ancestors." That's not a statement of issues, it's not a political agenda - it's a blank canvass onto which their cheerleaders can project their own political agendas, whatever they happen to be.


What rock have you been living under that you don't know about the Idle No More protests? You could bother to read any of the above links to find out why they did it.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I take from this statement that you disagree with the protestors.

My point was that they have no right to expect a meeting with PM, much less to act outraged when they only meet the Minister of Indian Affairs. No one has explained why walking to Ottawa entitles you to a meeting with PM, other than to talk about why these particular protestors happen to be right, which is not a basis for meeting the Prime Minister.

Does that mean you disagree with their assertion that they are a systemically disadvantaged group?

No.

Do you disagree that the federal government has been negligent in correcting that?

Yes. The federal government has made two serious attempts to end the apartheid under which status Indians live in Canada. The first, the 1969 White Paper, proposed formal legal equality for all aboriginals, treating them like every other Canadian. It was denounced as assimilationist by the aboriginal leadership and shelved.

The second, under Chretien (who had been Indian affairs minister in 1969), was the First Nations Governance Act. It was much less ambitious in scope and basically would have brought some transparency and democracy to reserves. It was, again, vigorously opposed by the aboriginal leadership, because it threatened their ability to siphon off government funds for their own benefit.

The aboriginal leadership is the biggest obstacle to progress for aboriginal people in Canada, not the federal government. The Indian Act has created a class of chiefs whose livelihoods are dependent on a massive system of wealth transfer to corrupt band councils. It's in the chiefs' interests that the system be preserved, but since it's so obviously a source of massive human misery, they need to ramp up the rhetoric about how awful the system is. The changes they propose are never about more accountability or democracy on-reserve, they're simply about the federal government shovelling more money into the existing system, or giving the chiefs freer reign. The aboriginal leadership is totally opposed to addressing the questions of how to get aboriginals educated and participating in the Canadian economy, because part of the answer would involve shutting down remote reserves where there will never be a functioning economy.

Do you disagree that real corrective action needs to take place immediately and the government must initiate that?

No, but I know that any attempt to actually address the root causes of a lot of aboriginal poverty - isolation on uneconomic reserves, and bad governance - will go nowhere, unless the government is willing to incur the total wrath of the aboriginal leadership. The perverse incentives are too deeply ingrained in the existing system for me to have much hope of it changing.
posted by Dasein at 9:26 AM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Watch for his poll numbers to go up. Hating on natives is the "acceptable" racism in Canada.

They're just so entitled these days. Walking from James Bay to Ottawa like they own the place . . .

And for the record, as KokuRyu notes above, it's naivete and/or myopic Canadian self-importance in the extreme to think anyone in Beijing cares enough about Stephen Harper to be affected either way by his handling of the pandas. My strong suspicion is that Harper knew this would play well to Chinese Canadians in important soft-conservative ridings with large Chinese populations in the 905. Which Harper himself would walk from Ottawa to Richmond Hill in snowshoes to court, if that's what the PMO's quants told him was the right move.

The sad, consistent truth of this government is that it will only pretend to give a shit about your cause if you can promise to deliver votes in a key riding. Aside from resource revenue, it is the only thing Harper and the PMO have invested with any real value. I almost wish the marchers in this case had abandoned all pretense and mounted the steps of Parliament Hill and said, "People of Canada, we are here because there is no hope left for this government and this is the only way we can get you to pay attention to First Nations issues."

In any case, good on 'em. Much as the media likes to sneer at Idle No More's purported lack of a clear political agenda, I think politically engaged First Nations is an unqualified good thing for their communities and for the country.
posted by gompa at 9:35 AM on March 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


It extended the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to those governed by the Indian Act, and it's tabled legislation to provide for matrimonial real property rights for aboriginal women. Harper seems to care a lot more about actual First Nations rights than other Prime Ministers before him, though he may be less given to caving into the self-interested demands for ever more money from the national aboriginal leadership.

Yeah, this is some right wing Kool-Aid drinking, right down to implying that aboriginal leaders are somehow presumptuous for asking for the money's they're owed. It looks good though -- I mean, until you realize that these efforts exist to privatize reserve land and eventually destroy reservations and their associated treaty entitlements. There's a reason the Sun is for these rights.

The real issue, which the Harper government will never touch, is straightforward treaty fulfillment and renegotiation with the Crown, because treaties can be ignored, diffused across multiple levels of government and tamed in courts whose right to interpret them is a matter of debate, but if aboriginal peoples were ever permitted to return to the founding documents of their relationship with the state, the resulting fallout would radically change the economic balance of power. This is why Teresa Spence wanted the Governor General on hand, and more to the point, why the government absolutely refused to allow contact. The basis of these treaties is a relationship with the Crown, not the Canadian state, and allowing that to proceed would, aside from moving the situation into uncontrolled legal territory from the POV of the Harper government, expose the popular notion that Harper is allowed to govern them the way he does other Canadians as a legal and cultural sham.
posted by mobunited at 9:36 AM on March 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


>The idea that Canada enjoys any kind of diplomatic or economic clout with China's leadership is patently ridiculous.

And it'll stay that way if they tell the Chinese Ambassador to go shove it and stand at the airport on his own while the PM stays home, huh...


No. From the Chinese perspective, Canada is an isolated, unsophisticated provincial outpost with no influence particularly on the world stage. We're tiny in terms of population, and in terms of potential over the next century, tiny in economic potential compared to traditional BRIC economies.

The "Stephen Harper government" ignored China until just a few years ago (not their fault; Canada has always spent the most time cultivating its relationship with the US), until they started to lecture about "human rights" (what a laugh, coming from this gang of Mike Harris retreads and Calgary School reactionaries).

For better or for worse, the current Chinese leadership identifies with 4000 years of continuous Chinese history. For most of that time it was China that legitimized the existence of neighbouring states. Soon it will be Canada offering gifts to the Chinese, rather than the other way around. It's going to be that kind of century.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think Harper's a jackass, but I also think it makes sense not to set a precedent that protestors will be given a meeting with the PM merely by showing up (even after an impressive trek). There's a West Wing episode where basically the exact same thing happens (I believe it's called 'The Indians in the Lobby') and they couldn't even get to talk to the Chief of Staff.
posted by axiom at 9:44 AM on March 26, 2013


Interesting post, and gotta love the Aztec Camera reference.....
posted by C.A.S. at 9:58 AM on March 26, 2013


Canada's raw materials are of non-insignificant interest to the Chinese. But the whole panda thing is a smokescreen. He could meet the marchers anytime. It was an expression of contempt, and you get the same whiff off some of the posts in here as well, in my opinion.
posted by unSane at 10:11 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


isolation on uneconomic reserves

A lot of baggage in that phrase.
posted by gimonca at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2013


Right now I have a coin in my pocket that features a tired old lady on one side and a young man running on the other side. His right leg is a prosthetic, and behind him there is the stunted and wind blown trees of the Canadian shield, which are found some 5,000 KM from where he had started his run.

When Terry Fox began that marathon across Canada for cancer no-one cared. On the beach where he started there is a couple of cameramen, and two or three other people. Only a handful. The people living on that empty St. Johns street could not have known what had started there on that day, that eventually thousands would greet Fox when he entered Ottawa. That one day he would be on a coin.

David Kawapit Jr. and six others started
from Whapmagoostui (map), in Northern Quebec. There is no road, it was -50C and they dragged their own food, sleeping gear, everything they needed for an overland trip by foot through remote and difficult terrain. Few outside of their small remote northern community cared when they set off, there was not even a single news camera. When they finally reached Ottawa they were greeted by thousands, including leaders of political parties.

The first reason listed for starting out was "to change the contempt with which they are treated" and no-where have I found evidence that the original 7 claim or demand a meeting with the leader of the country, only for their voice to be heard. Steven Harper was greeting cute bears for the photo op, and ignored the protest because his government seeks to ignore the entire Idle no More movement, of which this long walk is a part.

The real issue is that no-one from the federal government - in all it's vastness, was able or willing to bear witness and receive these young kids. Young folks who had traveled a great distance in difficult circumstances, which I would argue is in the greatest tradition of social action in Canada, only to be heard.
posted by zenon at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2013 [35 favorites]


If Kawapit had died on the way, I can only imagine how dismissive the spin would be.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2013


No one has explained why walking to Ottawa entitles you to a meeting with PM...

Because no-one has claimed that.

The claims are (as I can see) only that Harper's not meeting the protestors was deliberate, the move of a callous asshole, and that these walkers deserved better.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope they do manage to achieve what seems to have been their main goal -- some degree of unity. I remember a few years ago I started talking to some First Nations folks in Toronto about a photo project I wanted to do about ancestral lands and what had been built there, and very quickly became clear that inter-nation tensions and mistrust were a huge issue.

(Incidentally, you get another, much more positive, glimpse of it at the Indian Rodeo Finals down in Vegas in the fall, which I absolutely positively encourage you to go to if you're there. Very keen competition, lots of tribal pride and loyalty, and lots of Canadian First Nations folks too.)
posted by unSane at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2013


Panda-diplomacy is important, you guys!
posted by asnider at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2013


The juxtaposition of Chinese pandas and Idle No More in this thread hurts my brain.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 PM on March 26, 2013


Canada's raw materials are of non-insignificant interest to the Chinese

Also true of nearly every country in sub-Saharan Africa. But the Angolans, for example, are not working under the illusion that theirs is an equal partnership. Or that their resource wealth entitles them to any particular influence in Beijing. Or that posing with a panda amplifies that influence.
posted by gompa at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2013


There also remains the galling fact that pandas certainly get better treatment than almost all other immigrants and refugees to Canada.

These two pandas get a $8 million newly renovated home with $1.5 million annually in 'condo fees' (maintenance) and a $1.3 million per year retainer paid to China (so not so much a diplomatic gift and more like a car lease). The Toronto Zoo, which will have them for 5 years, is owned by the city of Toronto and will be on the hook. You can see the Zoo's 2013 operating budget here. Zoo admission has been jacked up by $3 per person to $28 and $1 per school visitor. By the Zoo's own optimistic projections (acknowledged by the budget proviso that they are allowed to fail at meeting their targets) the bears will bring a net gain of over $5 Million over the 5 years if all goes very very well. I'm betting they turn out to be a money loser.
posted by srboisvert at 1:23 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Once you've seen one panda you've seen them all.

It turns out their ecological niche is 'international diplomacy' and 'photo op'.
posted by unSane at 1:46 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once you've seen one panda you've seen them all.

That should be true soon enough.
posted by ODiV at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are five times as many giant pandas in the wild as Vancouver Island Marmots but they don't look as good on the TV news.
posted by unSane at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


A dangerous marmot actually lives about a block from where I'm typing this comment, over on the other side of the museum, at the Empress Hotel.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:35 PM on March 26, 2013


Also true of nearly every country in sub-Saharan Africa. But the Angolans, for example, are not working under the illusion that theirs is an equal partnership. Or that their resource wealth entitles them to any particular influence in Beijing. Or that posing with a panda amplifies that influence.

You kind of wonder what pact Australia (infinitely more sophisticated and energetic in the international trade dept than its kissing cousin Canada) signed with China to get sponsored for a seat at the UN Security Council.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2013


You kind of wonder what pact Australia (infinitely more sophisticated and energetic in the international trade dept than its kissing cousin Canada) signed with China to get sponsored for a seat at the UN Security Council.

Irrelevant. Australia didn't get any pandas!
posted by asnider at 3:20 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes they did, and before Canada too.
posted by scodger at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2013


Aboriginal issues are difficult and fraught in Canada.

Nevertheless, Stephen Harper and his government are a disgrace, in the fullest sense of the word.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:24 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every Harper-related news story disgusts me. Bah.
posted by tickingclock at 9:03 PM on March 26, 2013


Young folks who had traveled a great distance in difficult circumstances, which I would argue is in the greatest tradition of social action in Canada, only to be heard

Fantastic comment zenon, thank you. It makes my head spin a bit to see people defending Harper in this thread.
posted by jokeefe at 7:44 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


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