Premier Danielle Smith did not so much err again, she erred before and it is catching up to her yet again. I was aware of her (shall we say) goof before but it was brought home to me (and perhaps her) by reading an excellent article from the Walrus. I receive the Walrus newsletter and do appreciate the writing, the factual information and the insight provided.
This particular article was written by a newbie, they are lucky to have this woman writing for them. Her name is Michelle Cyca, she wrote Indigenous Ancestry?. The subtitle: New controversies represent an increasingly popular pastime: grasping at the furthest branches of a family tree in search of an Indigenous ancestor.
Cyca begins with a ‘happening’ in Newfoundland.
“On March 7 Memorial University of Newfoundland president Vianne Timmons published a statement about her ancestry. In it, she wrote, “I am not Mi’kmaq. I am not Indigenous. I did not grow up in an Indigenous community.” But this wasn’t a confession or an apology. Though Timmons had said for years that she had Mi’kmaw ancestry, and though she had previously identified as a member of the Bras d’Or Mi’kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia, she wrote that she had never made a false claim to Indigenous identity” The motivation behind her statement became clear the next day, when the CBC published a detailed investigation of her ancestry. Timmons is not the first public figure whose claim to Indigenous ancestry has lately come under scrutiny. Since Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden made headlines for his shifting identity claims in 2016, similar stories have emerged with disturbing regularity, though no two are exactly the same. Timmons’s story represents an increasingly popular North American pastime: grasping at the furthest branches of a family tree in search of an Indigenous ancestor. And in the ambiguous zone between Indigenous citizenship and Indigenous ancestry, from where Timmons drew her personal and professional identity, a crisis of disinformation is taking root.
In a CBC interview Timmons declared that she haughtily claimed that she did know the difference between Indigenous ancestry and Indigenous citizenship. Timmons attempted however to play the sympathy card by saying that it was an act of reclamation and healing. However, Cyca was not to be fooled. .
Her incorporation of that ancestry into her CV is framed purely as an act of reclamation and healing. “My father asked us not to be ashamed of it, because he was,” Timmons told Kelland. If her father was truly ashamed to be distantly related to a purported Mi’kmaw person, perhaps that’s because being a little bit Indigenous had less cachet at the time of his discovery than it does now. In 1996, when Timmons was in her late thirties, only 860 people in Nova Scotia identified as Mйtis. By 2016, that number had grown to 23,315—an increase of over 2,600 percent.”
That’s the refrain that follows a revelation like Timmons’s. And why is it that hordes of people are claiming to be Indigenous? Cyca again hits the nail on the head.
“If Indigenous people are oppressed, why are so many people claiming Indigenous identity? It comes from when questionably “Indigenous” people have ascended to such professional heights: university president, award-winning filmmaker, award-winning novelist, premier of Alberta.”
It should be possible for you to click on premier of Alberta and get the entire background story that appeared in the November 16, 2022 National News.
Do let me define the ability to hit the nail on the head. It means “to do or say something that is exactly right.” You can use this phrase when someone finds the exact answer of a problem or a question. Another word for it is to be spot on. (Suppose I could attempt to define spot on but it would take forever and would take away from the thrust of my argument.)
I shall continue with Cyca’s incisive article, then return to the topic of Premier Michelle Smith.
“Timmons only began to identify as Mi’kmaw-ish in her late thirties; until then, she believed herself to be a settler. The barriers faced by many Indigenous people—the intergenerational trauma of residential schools, the socio-economic disparities, the racism and discrimination—did not apply to her. For her, and for others who stumble on a long-ago ancestor, being Indigenous is not an inhabited identity; it is an accessory that one can take on and put away as easily as you might delete a line from your CV. And as our institutions seek to diversify in the most superficial sense of the word, that accessory offers people like Timmons an advantage over both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people: the insinuation of having overcome an obstacle that was never in their way. The cumulative effect is an impression of Indigeneity as a marketable asset, divorced from its historical, political, and cultural significance. The essential power structure of whiteness remains intact, and the sprinkle of artificially flavoured Indigeneity covers up the bad taste of settler guilt.”
Cyca ends her article most powerfully.
“On March 13, six days after her first statement, Timmons announced she would be taking temporary leave from MUN, later confirmed to be paid leave, while the university convened Indigenous advisers to discuss a path forward. Whether she returns to her role or not, the fallout of her actions extends beyond the gates of the university. “Any action I have taken in sharing my story or promoting indigenization in my professional roles was always undertaken in a spirit of reconciliation, curiosity and continued learning and respect for Indigenous Peoples,” she wrote. That she sees her appropriation as an act of allyship is precisely the problem. That so many other Canadians are doing the same is a catastrophe. It will lead us to a future where Indigenous people are not just excluded but erased.”
The occasional negative (but silenced) readers might be complaining that I do not do my own research, often relying upon others. My sources are reliable – I have recently found one nestled in the Legislative Library. It is a newsletter, called AB Today. It is an absolute treasure trove. The February 2, 2023 publication reported a Premier Smith radio talk show. Some of the questions, her answers and then my critique shall follow.
A critique is a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory. Other words to describe this process are: analysis, evaluation, assessment, write-up; criticism, textual examination, commentary, study, treatise, discourse, exposition.
“One caller asked why single people over 60 who do not qualify for seniors benefits new let out of affordability payments. Smith said her government’s fuel tax relief and electricity rebates are for everyone, but the province wanted to target families and seniors over 65 in order to be responsible with taxpayers dollar. “We want to be generous with those we know are really, really hurting “she says”.
Smith seems to be saying that if you are over 60, and single you are not really hurting. That is to illustrate responsibility with taxpayers dollars? This is devoid of logic and compassion both are qualities essential for leadership.
“Another listener said her rent had gone up by more than 15 percent and asked if the government would bring in rent control. A possibility Smith unequivocally shot down. Instead she pointed to rent support programs and said the government’s job is to make sure development permits are being approved efficiently in order to boost housing options.”
Any thinking person can see through the transparency of that argument. Smith is catering to the developers, those with money in order to gain their support. If there was rent control, rent support programs would not be needed as individuals could pay their rent – since it would be within their means and any increases in rent could be predicted. What good does it do to have housing options if no one can afford them? Again, this answer revealed no logic and no compassion (well except towards developers perhaps. Dare I suggest that developers neither need nor want her compassion?
This from the same radio talk show but I did not photograph the page, so it is impossible to quote AB Today’s questions and answers. A listener called to suggest the use of solar panels to grow crops. Smith found this rather ludicrous – instead she thought a good use of solar panels, funded by the Alberta government, should be placed upon the roof of the West Edmonton Mall. What?????? Who would that benefit? Big business as there would be an enormous electrical bill saving. Not a poor farmer attempting to make his food crops more profitable to himself AND provide needed produce year round. Perhaps someone should be sharing this conversation with those in rural communities that think that Premier Smith is on their side. No, she ain’t. It is impossible to categorize the thinking that went into that response. Thinking is the process of using one’s mind to consider or reason about something. Used as an adjective thinking is using thought or rational judgment; intelligent. The antonyms of intelligent are non rational or stupid. You can take your pick.
The photographs are of the Legislative Library. It is an amazing space, quiet with the most intelligent and helpful staff. It is possible to get a library card and also have access to online services. With proof of residence, I do think anyone can get a library card. After all I have one. I do wonder if Premier Smith has one?
When searching through my photographs to find the previously taken library shots, I came upon a cloud photo. The colors are breath taking. How can a person look at the clouds above us and not believe in the Creator? I guess they are too busy going to the gym to look at clouds. Oh well, their loss.