A Response To The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson

A “dream palace,” The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson calls it.

Inside that dream palace, the First Nations allegedly live in a fairytale land of sovereignty, respect and healthy relations with the Canadian state. Well, in fairness, Simpson describes the perks of living inside his so-called dream palace a touch more condescendingly. He sets the tone early, initially by dropping the capital letters on First and Nation and then by encapsulating the word nation in quotes — ostensibly questioning the very legitimacy of the term.

Simpson tells the Globe’s readership that Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation, the Idle No More movement and “large elements of aboriginal Canada” have it all wrong: they don’t understand the way the Canadian government works, their fight would do little to actually make “tangible difference in the lives of” the first peoples for the better and that those pressing for change in the movement are simply a rag-tag group of the usual anti-capitalist, anti-colonialism and traditionalist suspects.

What is Simpson’s solution? Join the 21st Century, folks. Get a wage, end the dependency, and forget about those lands upon which “aboriginal” communities sit —lands, which “are — and likely always will be — of marginal economic value.”Two-row wampum

And yet, Simpson has constructed another dream palace: one in which economic and social value is derived solely from the market. In this market dream palace, critics of capitalism, anti-colonialists and even those skeptical of the inherent righteousness of Western liberal democracy are crazies pulling at the fringes of Canada’s hegemonic fabric. In the market dream palace, all socio-economic and territorial issues have been resolved. In the market dream palace, import substitution industrialization (The First National Policy and the settling of Western Canada) did not rely on the marginalization of the First Nations people.[1] Finally, in the market dream palace, formal equality is not simply a right but also a responsibility to be productive in a way acceptable to those who would deny the First Nations self-determination.

[1] Vic Satezewich and Nikolaos Liodakis, “Race” and Ethnicity in Canada: A Critical Introduction, 3rd ed., (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2013), 69.