Monday, August 14, 2006

Righting Wrongs

Commenter 'Kevin' makes the point on this earlier thread, that the rule of law hasn't done aboriginal Canadians any favours over the past 200 years, and that in many cases it was ignored by settlers whenever it suited them.

I don't think anyone doubts that there are cases where genuine wrongs were done; but the philosophical question of how many future generations must continue to bear responsibility for wrongs committed in the past is what is really at issue here.

There seems to be a widespread acceptance, for example, that former occupied territories of the Roman empire don't really have a case to go to the Vatican today and ask for compensation.

Similarly, anyone who was to suggest the English should go after France or Normandie for the invasion of 1066 is liable to be laughed out of many rooms before they even got near a court.

A fraudulent insurance salesman might bilk millions out of unsuspecting clients; if he dies before he has been convicted, his children don't then go on trial for the crime.

So where, then, do we draw the line? At what point do we say that, no matter what happened in the past, we have to focus on the future and move forward from the point where we actually are, not the point where we might wish we were?

In the case of the Six Nations dispute, the legitimacy of the land claim is in question. Those (like our government) who have caved into the violence and vandalism of the 'protestors' are pre-judging the land claim issue and are inherently granting it credibility it does not necessarily merit.

It is interesting that the Six Nations protest only occurred when the land in question was on the point of being developed. It is interesting that it only occurred after Ken Hill and other business leaders of the Six Nations were thwarted in their attempt to seize land in the US to build a casino. It's interesting that the Six Nations of today only want the portions of the land that will make money - and now they want the wind as well. But only the wind that makes money.

The claim may be legitimate, or it may be a shameless money grab. That issue is far from decided. How much white man's guilt should we carry how many hundred years into the future? That also is very much undecided.

However, those of us who talk about the rule of law in this situation are concerned with the Criminal Code. Whatever the situation, the burning of a $1.5m railroad bridge, the toppling of hydro towers, the assault of TV reporters, the throwing of rocks through the windows of a senior citizen's home, the theft of vehicles, these are all crimes. That they occur in the context of a land dispute is irrelevant. That our government has chosen to ignore them, and instructed the OPP to ignore them remains a disgrace.