Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman Names Aboriginal Advisory Circle

Linked here is an article about the topic published by Global Winnipeg.

As noted in the title, the mayor has created an aboriginal advisory council with the  purpose of better advising officials on matters of concern to aboriginal peoples in the city. Or to quote the article:

The circle will advise the mayor on policies the city can implement to continue to build awareness and understanding between Winnipeg’s aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

The council has the following members:

  • Justice Murray Sinclair, commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Jamie Wilson, commissioner, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba
  • Cindy Blackstock, executive director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and associate professor, University of Alberta.
  • Coun. Cindy Gilroy, chairwoman, Citizens Equity Committee
  • Harry Bone, elder
  • Mae Louise Campbell, elder
  • Esther Ducharme, elder
  • Damon Johnston, president, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg
  • Chief Robert Louie, chief, Westbank First Nation
  • Dr. Marcia Anderson-Decoteau
  • Sean McCormick, CEO and founder, Manitobah Mukluks
  • Jessica Dumas, owner and founder of Prime Image Life Coaching
  • EJ Fontaine, president/CEO and founding partner of Anishinabek Consultants Inc.
  • Kimberley Puhach, consultant, Leaders and Co.
  • Dee Thomas-Hart, university student, youth representative, Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce
  • Manley A. Begay Jr., co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic
    Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Alan Greyeyes, aboriginal music development manager for Manitoba Music, chairman, Aboriginal Music Manitoba
  • Kerri Tattuinee, university student

That is quite an interesting array of people, some of which are obvious in their presence on the council. But others (such as the students, and the private sector members) are an interesting edition. Given the climate of academia in terms of social justice beliefs, and given the nature of business (self interest, often above everything else), such members make me a bit nervous.

But the mayor likely wants as diverse a group as possible in order to bring out as many ideas as are possible. If that was the aim, then this group is definitely a good choice. However, who the members of the group are is really small potato’s in comparison to the presence of the group itself.

I understand the reasoning. Mayor Bowman is the first mayor in Winnipeg’s history to be from an aboriginal background. Hopefully that was not the PRIMARY reason for many of his votes, but none the less, a step ahead for Winnipeg that should be acknowledged.
Given his ancestry, its unsurprising that mayor Bowman may be more receptive to aboriginal issues then other candidates. And given this, I understand the desire to create such a group as this.

The problem I have with it, is that it is (or at least it SEEMS) to be to singularly focused.

Aboriginal people do not have an easy history in Canada, not unlike aboriginals in most any other country in the world. And aboriginal people still have to deal with many problems in this day and age, including racist idiots and potentially excluding laws and decisions.
However, if the aggressor is the white race (that seems obvious), then it should be noted that aboriginal and indigenous groups are not the only other ethnic group then caucasians.

Like Brandon where I live and likely most every other mid sized to large city in Canada (and likely in many other nations as well), the last 10 to 15 years or so have seen a lot of international immigration. As a result of this, many of these cities are now much more ethnically diverse then they once were. Though other ethnicities have always been present in the West, the last few years has seen these numbers growing rapidly.

Though these groups are growing all the time, at this point they are for the most part still minorities in most areas. As such, though there may be some economic advantages to consider when evaluating the status of these groups,  I would say that their life experience in Canadian society may not be all that different then that of many aboriginal peoples.

I must acknowledge that this is only inclusive of aboriginal people living in urban settings (such as Winnipeg). No, this is not an accurate portrait of the entirety of aboriginal peoples in Canada.
However, I consider it applicable in talking about Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Advisory Council because the council is only applicable to a small segment of aboriginal peoples (these in Winnipeg).

But moving on, it is debatable whether or not aboriginals have the same economic opportunities when in the urban environments. Having no knowledge on this (besides the anecdotal), I will not comment.
However, when it comes to issues like racism and racial exclusion in decision making, I think that many of these other groups are just as likely to be victims as aboriginal peoples. Though there may in fact be specialized racists out there, for most, it seems that the hate is based on differing skin tones. If that is the case, then its not just natives that will be targeted.

Its true that stories of racism from other ethnicities then aboriginal seem to be fewer. There may be a number of reasons for this. I suspect language barriers may be one. Apathy (some people are assholes, so who gives a shit. Life goes on) may be another.

Either way, though its true that aboriginals likely have an unequal status in Winnipeg today, they are not the only such group. Though the Council is good in its goal of assisting people, I am less hospitable to those with only a narrow focus. Of which seems to be the case here.

I would go as far as to call it racist to promote the correction of wrongdoings and sufferings of the people in your own ethnic background whilst overlooking the issues (many similar) of other ethnic groups.

This might be a bit of a stretch. One in which may tick people off (feel free to let lose in the comment area). However, think about it.

How is being overly focused on the wellbeing of your group any different then being a “White man” without a care of your groups wishes?

There is no difference.

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