Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Laurier LaPierre dreamed 'in colour' about aboriginal rights

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Winnipeg writer Elizabeth Fleming recalled Tuesday there was a memorable exchange between former Liberal senator Laurier LaPierre and Toni Lightning of Buffalo Point when the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba was invited to make a presentation on matrimonial property rights on reserve to the Senate Committee on Human Rights in 2003.

LaPierre, an academic and rights advocate who first came to national prominence as co-host of the popular CBC current affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days, died suddenly Sunday. He was 83.

The following is that exchange taken from a transcript of the Sept. 22, 2003, committee hearing.

Senator LaPierre: Did you say that you have a golf course?

Ms. Lightning: Yes.

Senator LaPierre: Does it belong to you?

Ms. Lightning: It belongs to the corporation.

Senator LaPierre: Of which you are a shareholder.

Ms. Lightning: The chief and council are.

Senator LaPierre: Do you get much money from it?

Ms. Lightning: I get nothing.

Senator LaPierre: Why are they robbing you?

Ms. Lightning: That is my exact question.

Senator LaPierre: These thieves should be arrested.

Even if we make recommendations until doomsday, we will not be able to alter the Indian Act for quite some time because most bands -- run by men, as far as women are concerned -- will oppose it. They will use the mantle of custom, nationhood, and "Canada is imposing its will again.'' All of these are the refuge of scoundrels. Nevertheless, it will continue.

Can we recommend that there be a preamble to the Indian Act that may declare the need to correct it? In the meantime, bands could be ordered, within the shortest possible period of time, to alter every custom or tradition in favour of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and of the full rights of women? That is my first point.

Second, I find it difficult to believe that if you own this land communally that this thing you call a "certificate of possession" should not grant an inalienable right to every person who belongs to that tribal family from the moment of their birth. Is that valid or am I dreaming in colour?

Ms. Lightning: I would say you are probably dreaming in colour.

Senator LaPierre: It is not the first time.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2012 A11

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