Sunday, 7 September 2014

TRICK OR TREATY? - TIFF 2014 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Politely Canadian Apartheid

Chancellor Stephen Harper is the most insidious
of all Canadian Colonial Backwater Prime Ministers
in the "polite" genocide of our First Nations people.
Heil Canada! Heil Old Money! Heil Der Führer!
Heil Harper!
Trick or Treaty?
Dir. Alanis Obomsawin

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There are many things that disgust Canadians about Chancellor Stephen Harper, but for me, the worst is his refusal to properly deal with the egregious theft of Aboriginal Rights during the signing of the notorious James Bay Treaty, as well as the veritable litany of horrendously callous issues related to our First Nations People that he simply chooses to ignore. (The epidemic of murdered and missing Native women, anyone?) As the most vile Prime Minister in Canadian history (and we've had quite a few contenders for that dubious distinction in the Dominion of Canada), his record and public stance on the Native People of our country goes well beyond the pale. This pathetic Cowboy Hitler takes the cake.

Alanis Obomsawin's important body of work, including her new film Trick or Treaty?, confirms that Canada has always been the most insidious colonial backwater of them all and the genocide it continues to perpetrate upon our First Nations is perfectly in keeping with the country's sickeningly polite approach to decimating those who would dare get in the way of Old Money's needs to keep amassing money by just taking it (tactfully, graciously and ever-so sneakily, of course). Obmosawin's new documentary focuses upon a massive peaceful protest in Ottawa, the nation's capitol, that was designed to force Chancellor Harper (and, of course, the Governor General who represents the British Monarchy) to meet face-to-face with those First Nations Chiefs most affected by the over-100-year-old treaty which was designed and implemented to steal land and not allow any meaningful sharing in the decision-making process of dealing with said land.

The result of the James Bay Treaty has been abject poverty, skyrocketing rates of suicide and environmental destruction, all of which affects not just our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, but ALL Canadians. What affects the original inhabitants of this land IS our responsibility, but most of all, when any members of our nation are hard done by, our only real choice is to ensure our elected officials and bureaucrats are going to do the right thing.

Harper and his party of Totalitarian knuckle-draggers could care less. The power of this film is seeing the efforts of Native People trying to get him to address the problem - to give him a shot at something resembling redemption. We know in our heart of hearts it won't happen, but what's on view in Obomsawin's film makes us want it to happen nevertheless.

Top: Vile Canuck Bureaucrat (is there any other kind?)
Below: The True Heroes of every living Canadian
The core of the film involves a re-enactment of the 1905 signing of the James Bay Treaty (aka Treaty No. 9) in Moose Factory, Ontario. Presided over by the brainchild of this event, the late, great Dr. Stan Louttit, Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council, presents some of the most damning evidence of Canada's wilful apartheid and genocide (take your pick, Canada's done both) against our First Nations.

One of the earliest 20th Century Canadian Nazis was a petty bureaucrat (bureaucrats are the pathetic dweebs who implement the desires of our foul politicians) who rose to power within the Department of Indian Affairs to eventually become its Obergruppenführer. In the film, Louttit brings our attention to Scott's evil when he reads the following words of the foul bureaucrat:
"I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic . . ."
These are the words with which Scott extolled the virtues of Residential Schools - a horrendous program that forcibly wrenched over 150,000 Native Canadian children from their families and homes, shoving them into boarding schools designed to break their spirit and remove all vestiges of their culture from their hearts and minds. To do this involved physical and psychological abuse that was little more than torture. There was, of course, the added rampant sexual abuse, all of it perpetrated in the de rigueur fashion by - no surprise - Catholic nuns and priests.

So get this, in the film, Louttit exposes the fact that Scott, this paragon of forced assimilation, was also one of the chief bureaucrats present during the signing of the notorious James Bay Treaty where he and several others outright lied to the Native leaders about the content of the treaty and created an entire facade by which the First Nations representatives signed a document based on what the bureaucrats assured them was in the treaty as opposed to what was actually there. Louttit also exposes documentation which proves this fraud was perpetrated beyond any shadow of a doubt, so no matter what physically exists on paper in the treaty itself, the fact remains that the treaty the Chiefs signed is ultimately the treaty imparted to them verbally.

Native culture was rooted in an oral tradition and as such, especially during the time the treaty was presented, means VERY CLEARLY that the LIES of those Canadian politicians and bureaucrats present at the signing (all representing Mother England, our ruler) must, in fact, be taken as the ACTUAL TRUTH. The signatures of the Chiefs are actually "marks" (usually a single "X") since the men who signed the treaties could not read or write English and had to depend upon the aforementioned politicians and bureaucrats to tell them verbally what they were signing.

This powerful core of Obomsawin's film is deftly woven into the harrowing hunger strike implemented by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who went on a six-week-long liquids-only program to demand a meeting with Chancellor Harper and Canada's Governor General David Johnston to address a variety of issues related to treaty rights and the economic, cultural and societal plight Native Canadians find themselves in because of said treaties like James Bay. Obomsawin also includes a pointed Native Studies lecture dealing with the exploitative aspects of Treaty No. 9 and an astonishing, by-foot journey undertaken by several young Native men across Ontario's icy tundras from the far north to Ottawa itself.

And what of Chancellor Harper in all of this? It's what he chooses not to do that's the most egregious action. Looming in the backdrop of many of the activities is the symbol of Canadian evil, the Parliament Buildings, our very own Reichstagsgebäude. Harper is nestled safely within and yet a woman is potentially dying at his feet, thousands of men and women are gathered and even engaging in several spectacular displays of Native culture and then, several young, brave men have travelled by foot, thousands of miles to be in Ottawa.

Where the fuck is Chancellor Harper? Would it have been too much for him to make a few public appearances and say a few words to the assembled (no matter how empty they would have been)? He's simply nowhere to be seen, nor heard from throughout the range of spectacular, impressive and deeply moving events captured by Obomsawin's film (including a monumental circle dance involving hundreds of people).

Trick or Treaty? was produced by the National Film Board of Canada. It's somehow ironic that Harper, in his continued assault upon Canadian culture, is continually destroying the fabric of our cultural institutions and his vehement financial dismantlement of the Board itself is something we might, as a nation, never fully recover from.

At the end of her film, Obomsawin leaves us with a montage that's as heart-lifting as it's heartbreaking. It includes the powerful words of John Trudell. I'll leave you now, with the refrain:

Crazy Horse
We Hear what you say
One Earth, one Mother
One does not sell the Earth
The people walk upon
We are the land
How do we sell our Mother ?
How do we sell the stars ?
How do we sell the air ?


Trick or Treaty? enjoys its World Premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For further information, visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.