PM’s priorities are skewed

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It was a telling moment, and one as cold as any day in the past winter. When seven young people from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui finished the 1,600-kilometre trek from their home community to Ottawa, an effort to get the federal government’s attention on living conditions for native Canadians — and an epic trek by any measure — they were not met by Canada’s most senior politician.

No, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had something far more epic event to attend — a photo-op in Toronto, to welcome two Chinese pandas to the Toronto Zoo. After all, Canadian taxpayers are paying $1 million a year for the next 10 years to have the pandas here — five years in Toronto, five in Calgary — so you can imagine the prime minister wanted to be sure the investment had made the flight from Asia intact.

Now, it would be simple to just pile on and make the straightforward point that the Canadian people are Harper’s constituency, while pandas are not.

But the full story, as in most things, is probably much more complicated. And not only complicated — it’s also a mirror of a darker side of this country.

There is a bitter truth here: by not showing up for meet the young marchers in Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper may be “panda-ring” directly to his own constituency. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a large proportion of people in this country who view native Canadians with complete disdain.

Want evidence?

Read the comments on media websites during the Idle No More protests. The amount of ignorance about native issues, hatred and downright racism were quite apparent.

It may be that the prime minister simply weighed what his traditional supporters would rather see and the pandas won. That’s not a particularly palatable truth, but it may well be right.

There are, of course, probably other reasons as well. Perhaps China, seen as a formidable trading partner, might have felt offended if the highest politician in the country wasn’t on hand to meet the animals.

And there could be personal factors as well, including Harper’s dislike of any sort of appearance where he and his advisers could not exert full control.

This prime minister has shown for years that he prefers things on his own terms. He showed native leaders that same disdain when he refused to meet with hunger-striker Chief

Theresa Spence.

But take it out of the realm of politics and into the world of simple politeness — a group of young Canadians, aged 18 to 21, walked 1,600 kilometres through a Canadian winter to bring a message to Ottawa.

The least the prime minister could have done is put their effort on par with a photo-op with a pair of pandas.

Organizations: Toronto Zoo

Geographic location: Ottawa, Toronto, James Bay Canada Calgary Asia China

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Recent comments

  • Gerald Ryan
    March 29, 2013 - 07:57

    I am in no way a political advocate for any party and I cannot say that Stephen Harper is an all time favourite but I have to admire his stance on some issues. I clearly remember his offer to meet with the chief but that wasn't good enough. The meeting had to be on her terms. I believe that his decision not to meet these conditions was the right decision. As an aboriginal citizen of Canada I have to stand back and wonder where things are going to end up. It appears that every comment and every decision that is made by the non- aboriginals is being interpreted and classified as racism. Come on people wake up and smell the roses. We all know that this is not the case. We all know that the majority of aboriginal people are viewed as equals by their non-aboriginal neighbours. It is unfortunate that there is a select few that always focuses on the negative aspect with the intent to bring out the poor me aspect, then when somebody responds they interpret it as racism. Come on, take ownership and responsibility for your own actions. As for my opinion of the media I believe that they print and publish only things that create strife not what is actually occuring.

  • david
    March 28, 2013 - 12:26

    I think we should take the last few dollars remaining from the oil windfall we foolishly watched being completely wasted and put up signage outside every cemetery in Newfoundland: "WE ALL DIED OF STEPHEN HARPER."

  • EDfromRED
    March 28, 2013 - 11:15

    It's starting to look like Stephen Harper has enlisted the provincial PC's to destroy our province from the inside. With cuts to Justice, libraries, education, and the explosion in crime, it looks like plans are well underway to turn us into a North American Haiti.

  • saelcove
    March 28, 2013 - 08:40

    if they spent as much time looking for work as they do protesting.

  • a business man
    March 28, 2013 - 08:20

    Honestly, I agree with Harper's decisions. Canada's economic relationship with China is far more important that Aboriginal issues. I have nothing against aboriginal peoples. To put my post in context, Canada's economic relationship with China is more important to me than is Newfoundland and than is the Canadian fishery. I support Harper 100%. This was simply a smart business decision.

    • kevin mark bauer
      March 28, 2013 - 09:55

      The Harper Government has been selling out our ecology and ecosystem in favor of the economy since he got his mandate from the people.He will always put business ahead of our people and our land.This must stop and when his mandate runs out, I hope the Canadian people vote him out of office. He was a necessary evil when economies were collapsing to our south,but now it is time to bring in someone who can continue sound economic restraint without selling out our eco-system.