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Harper drops the 'C-bomb' on G20

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Sometimes I can't believe the things that come out of the mouths of politicians. Get this: our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at the G20 convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last week spinning a few yarns on the world stage.

This could rival some of those infamous Bush-isms. Hmm... maybe it's time for someone to put together some Harper-isms?

Besides bragging to the world that Canada is the envy of all other countries because it's doing OK economically, Harper went on to drop what I've been calling "the C-bomb."

"We also have no history of colonialism," Harper said. "So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them."

No history of colonialism? That must have been news to Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy.

If we have no history of colonialism then what the heck is Stephen Harper doing here? Does he believe his European ancestors sprouted out of the ground like sunflowers?

Colonialism is when a bunch of people -- Europeans -- moved to another country and took control over the land and the resources, often with bad consequences for the original people. It happened over hundreds of years all over the world: Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Canada.

This Harper-ism can be called a denial of history, a few too many glasses of wine over lunch, or guilt by omission at best. Or I can call it like I see it, which is our prime minister is shamelessly misleading people around the world. Wow! Classy.

Generally, you expect more from an educated person. Denial never works -- it just makes you look foolish when everyone else knows the truth.

And the ridiculousness didn't stop there. When the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network called on the Conservatives to comment, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl came to the rescue. He appeared to say our PM was talking about colonialism... in other countries.

"In a sense that Canada has never had colonial ambitions in Africa, Asia, around the world... like some of the Old World countries is what he was referring to certainly," Strahl said. "I think the apology he made a year ago on behalf of all Canadians speaks for itself. There's no doubt that Canada has a history of... ah, certainly a racist history of how it treated aboriginal people."

It seems Minister Strahl is covering for his boss now, or has no idea of the context of what was said. He was careful not to even utter the world colonialism which makes me think the word is akin to the scarlet letter for Tories.

What else has the prime minister said during his leadership that wasn't true? This makes me doubt he meant it at all when he apologized to residential school survivors. Only years of hard work made an apology inevitable, and it was simply his duty as current leader of the country to do it.

Even the name Indian -- a generic term given to a vast variety of indigenous people -- is proof of colonialism. The Department of Indian Affairs, treaty status cards and reserves are also proof of it. If you want to go even further, as any good economist should, you'd know that poverty is one of the greatest gifts of colonialism we've ever been given.

Hard to deny that exists.

And if anything it makes Canada's refusal to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples more understandable. How can Harper sign something upholding integral indigenous rights when our leader thinks we have no history of colonialism?

Is it any wonder that aboriginal people don't traditionally support the Conservative party? Besides denying First Nations rights, they can't even get our shared history right.

Colleen Simard is the publisher of Urban NDN.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2009 A19

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