Our response regarding the ad issued by Libertarian candidate Thunder Bay-Superior North June 10, 2014
Late last winter Ms. Tamara Johnson was forced to leave the Progressive Conservative Caucus because of a Facebook comment she had posted. The comment referred to unfair business advantages that local natives had by virtue of their tax-exempt status on various consumables. The resale of these consumables negatively affects the businesses of non-natives that are adjacent to First Nations reserves in all parts of Ontario. This was seen as unfair, and Ms. Johnson has been a well-known and vocal critic on this issue for some time.
Libertarians would focus blame for this unfairness on the historic contracts or treaties undertaken between the Crown, Federal government and First Nations people and the related, unresolved property rights issues, some that predate Confederation. The result is, citizens of Ontario can live in the same region, side by side, but be treated under different rules whose application is based on racial origin and enforced by various levels of government.
It's that issue that beckons for a libertarian response. So, members of the Ontario Libertarian Party asked Ms. Johnson if she would run as our candidate in the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding, and she accepted. Almost immediately the Libertarian Party came under criticism for this move from local individuals.
During the writ period and just prior to the Provincial General Election of June 12, 2014, Ms. Johnson’s campaign released an election ad in one of the local newspapers. Very quickly the ad became the focus of harsh and unfair criticism from many in the local First Nation’s community and beyond.
Here is the text of the ad:
VOTERS: No group of people are above the laws of Ontario.
No group of people can illegally block our roads and rail lines.
No group of people are “entitled” to handouts.
No group of people are owed a “debt” by today’s taxpayers.
No group of people “own” Crown lands. Crown lands are public lands. Not native lands. We all own these lands.
No group of people are “special” and deserve first class “Super-Citizen” status.
TAX PAYERS: Help me stop this doctrine of entitlement.
Help me stop the inequality.
Help me stop the injustice. Above all else, help me stop the “gravy train”.
Seniors and retirees, your children and grandchildren deserve the right to live in a fair, equal and just Ontario.
Vote for their future Thursday, June 12, 2014
Vote TAMARA JOHNSON and the Ontario Libertarian Party
Elections Ontario requires that the candidate’s Chief Financial Officer must approve every expense on behalf of a candidate. The Party CFO approved this ad because, by and large, the ad complies with Libertarian principles despite the fact that the Ontario Libertarian Party has no written policy with regard to First Nations. As such, Ms. Johnson’s campaign had no official guidance to help construct the ad. The Party may not agree with every word in the ad, but each candidate is in charge of their own campaign and has considerable latitude. The ad was never meant as a racial attack on First Nations individuals and neither the CFO nor the newspaper publisher believed that it was.
Our purpose as a political party has always been to promote individual liberty through free markets, property rights and limited government. Our platform, The Choice Book, focuses on five issues, none of which touch on aboriginal issues. For us, First Nations issues are local and primarily a Federal matter.
However, this issue does illustrate how government interferes with the lives of people by enforcing different rules and privileges for some individuals as opposed to others. Libertarians view this as inequitable and a call to action, even if these practices are enshrined in law. The law is wrong and should have been righted long ago. Our criticism is directed at the laws even if they are sections of the Charter of Rights.
End perpetual indebtedness:
First Nations’ individuals are treated differently from other citizens in Ontario. The historic treaties with the Crown and Federal government, plus legislation that established the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, effectively give natives entitlements and tax privileges based on their familial connections to those people who were represented at the signing of the original treaties. These are contracts that should be honoured, but like any contract they can be renegotiated and they should be. In many cases they were unfair to the original native signatories, and in hindsight the legislation and treaties have had a detrimental effect, to say the least, on the development of First Nations people in the modern era. The treaties also foster unnecessary divisions between natives and non-natives, creating animosity and dividing communities.
Stop Unequal application of the law:
Over the years First Nations people have organized protests that highlight deficiencies or disagreements with the government and the treaties, and that is their right. But when they block roadways and rail lines, disrupt commerce and infringe on the rights and the livelihood of innocent citizens, we expect government to step up and fulfill its primary function, restoring peace, order and the rights of individuals. In Ontario, the Ministry of Attorney General and the OPP failed on this, their mandated duty on several occasions. Clearly, no similar protests from any other groups would have been tolerated and treated in this manner. We believe the purpose and intent of Ms. Johnson's ad was to point out how governments have failed in this and other respects. We apologize to anyone who may have misconstrued the intent of the ad.
Reaction to the ad:
While some reaction to the ad was expected, the level of vitriol hurled at Ms. Johnson and the Libertarian Party was not. Virtually every opposing view mentioned racism. In a press release from the Fort William First Nation, Chief Georjann Morriseau charged that Ms. Johnson’s campaign was “scapegoating her people and inciting racial violence.” We strongly disagree. Does this mean that any criticism of First Nations and their relationship to the government (Crown) is beyond criticism or discussion?
Ms. Johnson received vulgar, unprintable, and abusive comments in social media, including hate mail, and even death threats. All of this is documented, as well as attempts to bully the Libertarian Party and the Leader into making rash comments on what quickly became a volatile situation. How does one respond to: “when did you stop beating your wife?” That is the sort of issue involved here; there is no appropriate answer that would defuse the underserved hostility and anger.
Who are the racists?
In our view the relationship between the First Nations and the Crown is racist by definition. The Indian Act, the only law in Canada based on racial identity, defines who is an Indian and what they are entitled to. It’s impossible to criticize this relationship without reference to race. That is a fact, and it’s also clear that Canadian governments at all levels have acted in a racially discriminatory manner towards aboriginals since Confederation.
For example: the Federal government’s Residential School System, was it not racist? There, thousands of children died unexplained, or were abused, and this has spawned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – an admission of racial bigotry - with the impossible task of righting past wrongs. Even now racism exists. There are more than 1000 native women who are officially “missing” without any alarm from provincial and municipal police forces? There is your racism. The relationship between the First Nations and the Crown is like an abusive marriage, which the First Nations people need to leave as soon as possible.
Libertarian Party of Canada position on Native Autonomy etc.
While the Ontario Libertarian Party has no policy with regard to First Nations, we accept the position of our federal colleagues as stated here:
"We call for the honouring of all just claims of native people to land, property, and autonomy. Specifically, we seek: an end to transfer payments to native individuals, and their replacement with a lump - sum transfer of federal land; an end to all intervention by the Government of Canada into the use of native land, and an end to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs; the repeal of the Indian Act; and the granting of full Canadian citizenship to all willing native individuals."
The Ontario Libertarian Party has been a registered political party since 1975. We advocate individual liberty through free markets, property rights, and limited government. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org