While the provincial election may not have affected many non-voting Onkwehon:we people on Election Day, it most certainly will. As much as it is true that “Indians and their lands” are the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government, don’t think the province has no jurisdiction or power to impose on Native people.
Let’s look at Kanonhstaton as an example, where the feds betrayed both the Six Nations and their own people and threw the responsibility to deal with the hot potato of Caledonia, which is deeply imbedded in treaty and land rights, over to the province and looked the other way. Then, the province passed it off to the local governments and took a hike as well, until forced to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that has been festering for almost 200 years.
Former Ontario Premier David Peterson had the authority to deal with land because, the way it is set up, the feds don’t own any land and the Ontario Land Registry is where land is registered. Therefore, the province is very involved with decisions affecting “Indians and their lands.”
Let’s also look at the HST fiasco when the provincial Liberals tried to work with the federal Conservatives to supersede treaty rights, which are supposed to protect Natives from taxation.
So in analyzing the results, we are pleased that PC candidate Tim Hudac lost by a wide margin and has since resigned his post as provincial leader of his party. A PC province coupled with a PC federal mandate would have spelled disaster for any and all Native rights in this province.
Although the Liberals are really not much better in the area of Native Rights, they are not quite as brazen in their approach to the issue. With a Hudac majority, the attack against Indigenous rights and Indigenous people would have been immediate and devastating.
Kathleen Wynn may well end up in the same general place as Hudac, but she still has a way to go before she gets as arrogant about it as Hudac was. A Liberal majority may buy some more time for Onkwehon:we people in this province to organize a better defense, and perhaps another couple of generations will survive before the boom gets lowered.
And about the NDP. On paper anyhow, they are the best of the bad lot when it comes to Native rights, and there could have been an NDP provincial government in Ontario had its national leader, the popular, charismatic and practical Jack Layton not died of cancer.
The challenge for his successor, Tom Mulcair, and provincially, Andrea Horwath’s popularity and success, was to rise up to the standards earned by Layton, and neither one could.
Politicians are under the misguided belief that average citizens will vote for or against party policies. But the truth is, for most voters, it is a popularity contest and you better have a leader with movie star qualities. Layton had that so strong that Horwath could ride on his coattails quite easily. For the Liberals, Justin Trudeau is that movie star, as his father was in his generation.
More locally, it was an uphill battle for anyone to go against David Levac and expect to remove him from the Brant riding seat, which he has held since 1999. At least he has been saying the right things regarding Native rights, and in particular, Six Nations. He tries to participate as much as possible with Six Nations civic events and is usually available to get ahold of.
Sad to say, Alex Felsk was not a strong candidate for her party, at least on issues concerning the rights of Indigenous people living within Brant. She knew very little about any of that, outside of the official party rhetoric on the subject. Still, it would have been an interesting test for the NDP, had Andrea Horwath or Felsky won.
So in conclusion, we are pleased that the specter of Hudac’s heavy hand over Six Nations no longer exists. But we are also not naive enough to believe Wynne will move the 200-year-old indigenous rights yardstick ahead much, if any at all.
For Native people with the Brant riding anyhow, Levac represents the “devil you know,” which is far less dangerous than the “devil you don’t”.