Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pierre Poilievre: Callousness and Lack of Empathy

Another characteristic of a sociopath is callousness and lack of empathy. What Pierre is discussing is the compensation paid to aboriginal victims of systematic abuse in the forced residential schools.

The tone of his voice definitely reveals a callousness, and the fact that he's looking for "value" for this compensation shows that he clearly does not understand the trauma suffered by former students. In fact his use of the word "partook", like they were willing participants in their own abuse, certainly indicates that he lacks any human compassion.

What is also telling is when he states that "some of us are starting to ask". The Reform-Alliance-Conservative Party have never agreed with the status afforded our First Nations, not understanding that they have treaty rights. They were never "conquered" as some would suggest, but have a legal right to their land and it's resources.

First Nations Second Thoughts

Several years ago, Marcie McDonald wrote an article for the Walrus magazine, entitled The Man Behind Stephen Harper, in which she discusses Tom Flanagan and the agenda of the Calgary School. McDonald opens with the following:

Consternation rumbled across the country like an approaching thunderhead. For aboriginal leaders, one of their worst nightmares appeared about to come true. Two weeks before last June’s federal election, pollsters were suddenly predicting that Conservative leader Stephen Harper might pull off an upset and form the next government.

What worried many in First Nations’ circles was not Harper himself, but the man poised to become the real power behind his prime ministerial throne: his national campaign director Tom Flanagan, a U.S.-born professor of political science at the University of Calgary. Most voters had never heard of Flanagan, who has managed to elude the media while helping choreograph Harper’s shrewd, three-year consolidation of power.

But among aboriginal activists, his name set off alarms. For the past three decades, Flanagan has churned out scholarly studies debunking the heroism of Métis icon Louis Riel, arguing against native land claims, and calling for an end to aboriginal rights. Those stands had already made him a controversial figure, but four years ago, his book, First Nations? Second Thoughts, sent tempers off the charts.

In it, Flanagan dismissed the continent’s First Nations as merely its “first immigrants” who trekked across the Bering Strait from Siberia, preceding the French, British et al. by a few thousand years – a rewrite which neatly eliminates any indigenous entitlement. Then, invoking the spectre of a country decimated by land claims, he argued the only sensible native policy was outright assimilation.

Aboriginal leaders were apoplectic at the thought Flanagan might have a say in their fate. Led by Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, they released an urgent open letter demanding to know if Harper shared Flanagan’s views. Two months later, Harper still had not replied.

For Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, his silence speaks cautionary volumes. Martin’s minority government could fall any minute, giving Harper a second chance at the governmental brass ring. “If Flanagan continues to be part of the Conservative machinery and has the ear of a prime minister,” he worries, “it’s our existence as a people that’s at stake.”

Recently a Conservative MP, Peter Goldring, posted a newsletter to his website suggesting that Louis Riel was a villain.

Goldring posted the letter in response to a request from the federal New Democrats who wanted Louis Riel to be recognized as a father of confederation and wanted a conviction that saw him hanged for treason overturned. In his letter Goldring wrote, "Riel didn't father confederation; He fought those who did." Riel, a politician who fought for Metis rights in the late 1800s and also helped found the province of Manitoba, led two violent rebellions against the Canadian government and was hanged for treason.

The letter went on to say, "To un-hang Louis Riel and to mount a statue to him on Parliament Hill would elevate anarchy and civil disobedience to that of democratic statesmanship." The letter has now been removed from Goldring's website, but the words have Alberta's Metis outraged.

Was he one of the "some of us"?

In January 2002, when Jim Flaherty was the Ontario finance minister under Mike Harris, he suggested that the First Nations weren't "real people". (1)

Was he one of the "some of us"?


Most knowledgeable listeners concluded that Poilievre continued to advocate the old Reform Party view and was not actually proposing to adopt any of the mutually acceptable solutions natives had agreed to or that previous governments had advocated. Mr. Harper, on taking office, had discarded Paul Martin's Kelowna Accord which was to begin to address some of the problems noted above.

Many listeners heard, in this context of prior positions by his party, Mr. Poilievre's comments as excusing prior governments' behaviour. His exact words: "Now, along with this apology, comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years. Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask, 'are we really getting value for all of this money..."." As the word "partook" implies voluntary choices rather than state-sponsored child abuse, and those who pay compensation in civil courts are not usually consulted as to whether they (the abusers) are "getting value", the words appeared to convey some racist assumptions.

"Mr. Poilievre, who did not spend his childhood "partaking" in state-sponsored child abuse, is not sure the government is getting "value" for the compensation it is paying the natives it abused."

Anita Neville, the Liberal aboriginal affairs critic, called Poilievre's comments "disgraceful" and "ignorant." "I invite him to take a tour of many of the First Nations communities in this country and see how people are living," she told the Canadian Press. "The irony of something like this on the day of the apology... . And I fear it reflects an attitude or a view that is prevalent among many members of hat caucus." Opposition MPs called for Poilievre's resignation. According to news reports, many Conservative MPs were also angry at Poilievre.

The day after his appearance on CFRA, Poilievre rose in the House of Commons to apologize for his statement saying, "Yesterday on a day when the House and all Canadians were celebrating a new beginning, I made remarks that were hurtful and wrong. I accept responsibility for them and I apologize."

Liberal Tina Keeper, an aboriginal MP from Churchill, branded Mr. Poilievre "a national embarrassment," and said she had received more calls from constituents about Mr. Poilievre's remarks than she had about the prime minister's request for forgiveness for the assimilation policies of the residential-school program. (2)

This coming just as Stephen Harper was making a public apology put the entire thing in context. And for that context allow me to quote Tom Flanagan again when he was trying to repackage Harper to appear "prime ministerial": "How do we fool people into thinking that we're moving to the left when we're not?" (3)

Enough said.


1. Canadian Race Relations Foundation, "Flaherty: Enough is enough says the Executive Director of the CRRF", News release, January 22, 2002

2. Wikipedia

3. The Pilgramage of Stephen Harper, By: Lloyd Mackey, ECW Press, 2005, ISBN: 10-1-55022-713-0

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