Solutions through peace, friendship and respect

John Borrows will be presenting at Niigaan on June 8th. Read his bio here: http://www.law.umn.edu/facultyprofiles/borrowsj.html

Indigenous peoples’ lives are drastically shorter than other Canadians and marked by more suffering as measured by considerably higher rates of poverty, injury, and incarceration, and significantly lower levels of education, income and health. This did not occur in an instant; we have long passed the “tipping point” in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and others. We are in crisis mode, and at this moment in time there is no politically-driven prospect of salvaging the relationship; it is already broken and lies in ruins all around us.

Indigenous peoples are living through a period of profound, extended, multi-generational trauma, and this issue only comes to the attention of most Canadians every few years. At the same time, Indigenous activism is ever-pervasive and is always present within and outside of Indigenous communities. Though Indigenous activism does not often rise to the level of national ‘news’, Indigenous peoples have long taken daily and longer-term steps of resistance to protect their lands, languages and resources, even while others within their midst ‘silently’ succumb to the despair spawned by the overwhelming challenge of finding success in these endeavors.

Within current structures, the Canadian government cannot and will not be able to effectively address Indigenous issues, either through legislation, litigation, education or economic development. Throughout history they have tried—and failed—again, again, and again. No political party or philosophy will solve these issues under our present political configuration of power. We are experiencing a moral, cultural, structural, and spiritual problem of the deepest order—answers to these problems rest on intangibles which cannot be manufactured through policy or solved with money. Solutions will never arise unless we take greater steps to cultivate practical goodwill in our own and others’ hearts and minds. I will discuss the issues of peace, friendship and respect which must lie at the heart of any movement towards better relations in this field.

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