John Ralston Saul: sympathy for aboriginal issues is not enough
Two years ago, the Idle No More movement swept across the country, inspiring Aboriginal Peoples to protest an array of social, political, environmental and economic issues.
As Canadian intellectual and novelist John Ralston Saul watched, he too was inspired and the result was his latest book “The Comeback.” The book tackles the historical mistreatment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and explores how they have mobilized into a position of greater empowerment.
Saul told CTV News Channel in an interview on Wednesday that aboriginal issues are the "most important" and "unresolved" in the Canada.
After Idle No More, Saul says Canadians wanted change, but they didn't know how to achieve it and the issue has taken a back seat.
"People have fallen back on feeling guilty, feeling sympathy, but it doesn't lead anywhere," he said.
"Sympathy is not the answer."
One of the central themes of “The Comeback” is treaties, and Saul wants to remind Canadians that the bargain between the Canadian government and aboriginals hasn't been honoured. He says the governments of Canada, on various levels, have mistreated aboriginals more than any other group.
"I think as a writer I can speak to other Canadians and say, 'listen, we signed those treaties and we are not respecting them, '" he said. "We are using every method we can with the lawyers from (the) Justice (Department) to shut them down, to minimize them and to not fulfill … the original bargain."
"It is not only not to our credit, it not good for the country (and) it doesn't do us any good in the long run."
Saul says Canadians must decide whether they will take a stand, but, regardless, there will be a "comeback" by Aboriginal Peoples into positions of power, influence and leadership. He cited the rise in the number of Aboriginals attending university as an indicator of this growing power. Saul says the number has spiked from just 65 in the 1960s to over 30,000.
"This is going to happen whether our governments want it, or not," he said. "The question is whether citizens are going to use our responsibility to say we feel this is the most important issue of the day — don’t distract us."