Perry Bellegarde has an impossible job. As the putative leader of 634 First Nations in Canada, he has to reconcile the oft-irreconcilable interests of those First Nations. Some want more resource development, some want less, some want none. Remote fly-in communities of a few hundred have vastly different needs and interests than more populous communities in the south. About the only thing all 634 First Nations can agree on is that they've consistently got the dirty end of the stick since those swashbuckling Europeans you read about in "Breastplate and Buckskin" embarked upon the great usurpation five hundred or so years ago. That leaves the national leadership with a very muddled mandate when supposedly having "sovereign to sovereign" negotiations with Ottawa.
Herding cats would be a stroll in the meadow by comparison.
One thing First Nations do agree on is equal funding for education. There was renewed optimism on that file when the settlers elected Justin Trudeau as their Grand Chief a couple of years ago. Here was a man who talked the talk and availed himself of many photo-ops kitted out in traditional Indian finery. Yet what has become of his supposed good intentions?
Nothing, that's what. Initiatives to augment financing for health care and education are strangled in bureaucratic inertia. The much anticipated MMIW inquiry is collapsing in recrimination and infighting. The suicide epidemic among the young continues apace... or is getting worse, if such a thing can be imagined. By any metric, education, incarceration, employment, the life prospects for a First Nations child born today reveal the reality of a de facto apartheid that should shame every Canadian.
Tragically, it's difficult to see where much can change in the foreseeable future. Far too many have a vested interest in the status quo, especially but not exclusively on the settler side. Legions of lawyers have made lucrative careers out of NOT resolving the many outstanding land claims. After all, why would they be in any rush to end their ride on this gravy train?
Unfortunately, their gravy train is the nightmare train to nowhere for far too many First Nations people. There's been a lot of happy-talk about "reconciliation" these past few years. That's just empty words until those land claims are resolved, because no true sovereign to sovereign negotiations can happen until then.
At that point, the two (equal?) sides can begin discussing reparations, and only after that can there be any hope for reconciliation.
In the meantime, it's full-speed-ahead for Ottawa's divide and conquer strategy.