The Caledonia land claims disputes are in the news again lately. In sum, the federal government offered Six Nations $26 million; Six Nations countered with $1 billion. The federal government essentially laughed in their faces:
Six Nations says it calculated the amount using the federal government’s own interest rates and historical promises made to them. But federal negotiator Ron Doering says such compound interest tables always arrive “at a really big number” and that “it is not consistent with our thinking nor does it detract from what we feel is a very fair offer.”
Funny how that’s kind of…meaningless, isn’t it? I wish I could say that I’m more familiar than I am with the specifics of the historical circumstances before offering an opinion about the actual numbers involved, but here’s what I can see–Six Nations is speaking in concrete terms, pointing out the calculations involved and explaining the terms involved. In elementary school math, this is known as “showing your work” and tends to be mandatory. Canada is making vague allusions to “our thinking” and simply saying that they feel this is a fair offer, without further argument or support for that feeling.
I would generally presume that, at the negotiating table, the Canadian government is invoking much more solid facts and logic. Or I would presume that, were I not so damned jaded about such things. Also, we’re linking the Hamilton Spectator, here–if there’s a side that makes Six Nations look worse, they’ll find it. But as it stands, in their minds, they don’t actually need to prove that the federal government represents the side of reason in this situation. That’s just common sense:
But it takes brazen audacity and a substantial helping of contrarian thinking to counter with a figure that leaves the parties 3,000 per cent apart. This approach does not lead to resolution. It is difficult to see any sense in the strategy behind all this, unless it is to prolong the impasse or make the occupation of disputed lands a way of life for natives and non-natives alike.
There’s a quote by Einstein that says that “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18” that would seem overwhelmingly appropriate in this situation.
Canada made that offer with a definite sense of just how badly they were low-balling. Let’s assume that if Six Nations had submitted the first number, they would have stuck with exactly the figure with which they countered. Would it then be the Canadian government who was being called “ridiculous”, accused of showing no faith in reaching resolution or prolonging the impasse?
The only way mainstream white Canada will be satisfied to call land claims “resolved” would be if they were to go away quietly and with absolutely no impact on the lives of individuals off the reserves. I agree that it takes some “brazen audacity” to put that billion dollar figure out there. But it takes far more head-up-assery to continue to assume that such audacity is unwarranted, without at least questioning which side of this 3000-percent difference is being irrational, selfish and incredible. The only way one can make such assumptions is to operate on the constant premise that the Canadian government is making and has always made negotiations with First Nations populations in good faith and with the desire to reach a legitimately fair resolution.
Yeah, I can’t suspend my disbelief that much, either.