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Prime Minister Trudeau: A Tartuffe with First Nations?

October 14, 2017

Socrates despised hypocrisy, so he railed against the powerful in Athens, who publically feigned knowledge and virtue while privately indulged ignorance and vice.  One could say that western moral philosophy originated out of the desire to skewer and expose the hypocrite. 

The great French playwright, Molière, loathed the hypocrite.  His chef-d’oeuvre, Tartuffe, deals with a con-man, Tartuffe, who constantly and publicly professes his piety while is privately nothing but a seething ensemble of vices.

Now some saw through Tartuffe’s appearances, but not all did.

Molière’s clear-sighted Cléante pierced and pilloried Tartuffe’s hypocrisy.

But Cléante also admonished the willfully blind: those who refuse to see through Tartuffe’s  hypocrisy.

What?  Don’t you make any distinction

Between hypocrisy and devoutness?

You want to describe them in the same words,

And give the same honour to the mask as to the face;

To identify artifice with sincerity,

Confuse appearances with truth,

Respect the phantom as much as the person,

And accept counterfeit money on a par with the real thing?

Now, is Prime Minister Trudeau a Tartuffe when it comes to First Nations?

I certainly don’t know what his private intentions are. 

But consider some evidence for ascribing “Tartuffianism” to Trudeau. 

Keep in mind that this evidence is readily available to anyone with an internet connection and about twenty minutes to spare on Google. I am by no means a scholar regarding FN issues nor am I a member of the FN community.  I speak solely as a concerned citizen of this country.

In March 2016, the Trudeau budget promised billions in new spending for FN.  About a day afterwards, some were arguing—and rather convincingly—that the promised billions were not forthcoming.  In fact much would not be spent until after the next election.  The money promised the critics said, was but a shell game.

In April 2016, The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Trudeau government to provide proper and fair services to FN children.  By September of 2016, the Trudeau government was accused of failing to comply with the tribunal’s ruling.

To its credit, in October 2016, the Trudeau government supported a motion demanding action on FN children’s welfare.

However, in March 2017, it was still argued that the Trudeau government spends a fraction of what they promised on FN children’s health.  Advocates argued that the 2017 budget did not mention FN children, provided no new spending, and once again advocates pressed the Trudeau government to close the gap on spending for FN children.

And just recently it was revealed that during Trudeau’s time in office, the government has spent 110,000 dollars  in legal fees to avoid paying 6000 dollars for dental work for a FN child.

This revelation was shortly after Trudeau addressed the UN admitting the past sins, and some present ones, too, but stressed that his government was working hard to correct them.  However, some critics stressed that he mostly historicized the problems rather than admitting that his government had an ongoing role.

Aside from what seems to be a serious discrepancy between promises and actions regarding funding for FN, there seems to be a discrepancy regarding intentions and actions on legal matters.

In May of 2016, Trudeau’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, announced that Canada will fully embrace the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  By July of 2016, Trudeau’s Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, said that adopting UNDRIP is unworkable.

There is also the issue of the Senate’s Bill S-3, which was to remove discrimination against FN women in the Indian Act; however, the Trudeau Liberals voted against it.  Removing such discrimination against FN women would have led to a large number of women eligible to reclaim aboriginal status and that would have entitled them to benefits

Removing discrimination against FN women would have cost the government a lot of money and so the Trudeau government would appear to have put economics before justice.  

Critics charge that all this denial of rights to FN women was done with a smile.

Finally, there is the more recent issue of the 60’s Scoops Trial, where the Trudeau government has admirably allotted some 800 million to redress forced adoptions of FN children back in the 1960’s and on to the 90’s.  Again, this sounds like a large amount of money, and it is, until one stops to think that it will be distributed over several thousand people.

Some have estimated that if there is an abundance of claimants, the amount each will receive will be $20,000.  If there are not so many, then the amount for each claimant is still capped at $50,000.  This amount per FN person pales in comparison to what Ottawa has compensated others for their experiences of severe trauma, which is by no means to say that Ottawa overcompensated others, just that it is arguable that Ottawa is drastically undercompensating FN persons.   

In addition to a possible discrepancy between appearances and reality by the Prime Minister, there have been a few puzzling instances where he seems to have let down his guard.  I have two instances in mind. 

The first was Trudeau’s questionable phrasing back in January 2017 about FN kids needing a place to store their “paddles and canoes” while they study or access the internet.

Needless to say, some in the FN community were not amused and wrote an open letter to Trudeau about it.

The second is the strange comment Trudeau made in the July Rolling Stone interview about picking a FN person to box in order to construct a particular kind of narrative favourable to Trudeau.

Overall, one can find much recent criticism of Trudeau by indigenous leaders for failing to live up to his promises, such as the promised veto over developments on their territories.  Some argue that it seems that for FN, “Sunny Ways” was just a phrase and that Trudeau’s plans for Indigenous reconciliation are just “beads and trinkets”.

This is not a complete picture, I realize, of the whole story regarding Trudeau and FN, but it would seem that there is a strong case for “Tartuffianism” here on this issue. 

But most importantly, let us not forget Molière’s Cléante, who implores that we, the surrounding community, must be on guard lest we have a Tartuffe in our midst. 

Prime Minister Trudeau, to his credit, has often said that he wants strong voices of opposition in the country to hold him accountable, which is how a democracy should work. 

I will certainly take him at his word on that.

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