On Friday February 7th, Stephen Harper visited the Blood Reserve to announce a new legislation known as the First Nations Education Act. Prime Minister Harper was welcomed by our elected Chief Charles Weaselhead and our band council. Along with Harper, Shawn Atleo, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bernard Valcourt, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, were also present.
A couple of years ago, Charles Weaselhead welcomed Stephen Harper into our community and made him an honorary member of our tribe. Since then, Harper has referred to our community as his “home nation.” At the time, many of us were unaware of our Chief’s plan to grant Harper an honorary membership. Needless to say, we didn’t really have a choice in the matter. The event itself turned out to be a very exclusive engagement under heavy security to which media was given an all-access pass.
Much like this event, the announcement of the FNEA was an exclusive event that was heavily monitored by a security task force that included Harper’s own security personnel, the Blood Tribe Police, and a few members of the Brave Dogs Society (our warrior society). Many tribal members were not granted access into the Kainai High School gym where the event took place and a peaceful protest also took place outside the school. A small group of protestors holding “Stop Harper” signs also held a short demonstration inside the gym before being escorted out. However, before the event started, a number of tribal members were forcefully removed from the gym. Twila Eagle-Bear Singer and her young daughter were removed purportedly for Tweeting, even though Twila didn’t have her phone on her. A teen girl was also physically removed from the gym by Tribal Police and their excessive use of force is deeply troubling.
As a member of the Blood Tribe, this event was concerning and distressing for a number of reasons. Firstly, we were not made aware of this visit until the night before the event . Secondly, the First Nations Education Act is an very problematic legislation given the fact First Nations were not properly consulted, despite the Crown’s fiduciary duty to consult with Treaty Nations on matters like this. The AFN may have participated in the negotiation process and the drafting of this legislation but they do not have the authority to speak on behalf of Treaty Nations. Thirdly, this event has deeply divided our community. It was painful to watch members of our Brave Dogs Society side with Tribal Police in such acts of force against women and children. Seeing our community so deeply divided has left me – and many others – with a very heavy heart. Finally, Twila’s daughter and the other young woman removed are part of the target demographic that will be directly affected by the First Nations Education Act and the treatment of these young women speaks to the ongoing paternalistic attitude of the state toward Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal people as a whole.
The Right Thing To Do is a short video remix in response to Friday’s spectacle.