08/09/2012 09:00 EDT | Updated 10/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Media Bites: A Native Bill MAY Pass? Write it as Fact!


So the nation's editorial boards are all excited at the prospect that the federal government will soon introduce legislation to allow First Nations people living on reserves to own their own land. Which is interesting, because I'm not sure that's actually happening.

"The federal government said Tuesday it has no imminent plans to introduce legislation to allow First Nations people living on reserves to own their own land," writes Postmedia reporter Teresa Smith, which seems pretty unambiguous. But, oh, lookie here, it's that senator who couldn't beat up Justin Trudeau! He says he's in favour of such legislation! And since he's known to be one of the federal government's most credible, uh, decorations, it's safe to assume he speaks for the entire Harper administration, right?

No? Well, whatever, just use him as pretext to say the Tories have been "signalling" interest in the idea, or "seem poised" to do it. Or just cross the line into outright fantasy and claim they're going to introduce a bill without providing any corroborating evidence or citations whatsoever, I don't care. Point is, press people want to talk about native property rights so that's what we're gonna do, dangnabbit.

Surprise! Everyone loves property rights for natives! And why wouldn't they? Property's great! When you own property you get to enjoy a "sense of pride" that can't be beat, says the Winnipeg Sun. Not to mention that property ownership helps "contribute to economic development and wealth creation," adds  Mark Milke at the Hamilton Spectator. Indeed, a federal government that denies property rights to our reserve-living friends is not only "racist and imperialist," scolds the Ottawa Citizen, but perpetuates an "economic model that's not very different from a social-housing project" -- which I'd say is an even crueler insult.

So full speed ahead with passing the non-existent legislation? Well, not quite.

The Globe and Mail board cautions that the "devil may yet be in the details," which I would say is a fair critique of a bill that, again, doesn't friggin' exist. Others worry that the uppity natives themselves might throw some roadblocks (figuratively!) in the way of a government that obviously knows what's best for them.

In particular, warn the Winnipeg Sun people, the country's assembled Indian chiefs will likely put up strong opposition to anything that threatens to "reduce their power," particularly their "right to boot people from the homes they've lived in for years on a whim."

The gentler souls at the Citizen, meanwhile, worry that the Harper regime has been so boorish on native issues lately it's probably "handicapped its own efforts" to make progressive reforms. As evidence of this handicapping, they can only cite the PM's supposed "mishandling of the Attawapiskat crisis," which, as we may recall, entailed giving the Attawapiskatis $90 million. So you can understand why he'd be unpopular.

There aren't a lot of First Nations pundits in this country, which isn't too surprising considering that most Canadian editorial pages aren't exactly a rainbow of diversity to begin with. The Winnipeg Free Press thus deserves kudos for at least commissioning the thoughts of one actual-factual native guy for a bit of balance, even if it was only for their online edition.

The real reason reserve Indians are poor, writes Trevor Greyeyes, isn't because they lack fancy pants property rights, but rather because reservations "were never meant to be functioning communities" in the first place. The things are just crappy chunks of land with scant resources where the white man found it economically convenient to exile races he was tired of dealing with. Sure, maybe in some rigid, technical sense natives were given what they wanted, but in practice the outcomes were so obviously flawed and inferior it was hard to view this supposed generosity as anything but a patronizing insult.

In a way, I imagine it was something like being published in the online edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.


Sadly, Quebec's big pointless waste of time provincial election which everyone agreed last week was a big pointless waste of time has continued to receive disproportionate media attention over the last couple of days, as columnists fuss to find some angle -- any angle -- to make this non-event seem compelling.

They found Jacques Duchesneau. He's some guy from Quebec's newfangled Coalition party we were all supposed to get excited about this week. Apparently he was once the beloved boss of the anti-collusion wing of the provincial transportation ministry, which makes him quite the high-stat Pokemon to bring to an election battle the press is increasingly insistent should be fought over corruption.

In the Gazette, Don MacPherson goes so far as to say Jacques' candidacy "might have changed everything," a la Jack Layton and the Orange Crush, since he too "inspires such unquestioning trust" among the Quebecois. Graeme Hamilton at the Post agrees, calling the Coalition's "coup" nothing less than a master stroke allowing the plucky third-place party to unexpectedly "seize control of the provincial election agenda." It's difficult to even read a straight news article about Duchesneau that doesn't make ample use of fawning pronouns like "star" and "hero," in fact.

Of course, "shaking up" an already dull and useless election is a bit like shaking up a hollow maraca -- fun in a way, but still unlikely to produce a fiesta. Duchesneau might be leading, but this conga line is still going nowhere.