Spence, the GG, and political Calvinball

It remains to be seen whether or not that meeting between the Prime Minister and the First Nations will happen today because of the omnishambles that the process has become. The day began with the rather amazing feat – that Stephen Harper once again compromised. He asked the Governor General to host a ceremonial meeting at Rideau Hall for the Chiefs after the working meeting, and the GG accepted and extended the invitation. It was a wholly appropriate way of involving the representative of the Queen as the Chiefs were demanding. But then revolt happened. A group of Manitoba chiefs decided that they were going to follow the lead of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and say that unless the GG was at the table with Harper, then no dice. Of course, Chief Spence’s demands have had all the clarity of the rules of Calvinball, and her demands changed again today so that she wanted Harper and the GG at the table at the same time, and the premier of Ontario. You know, the one who’s tendered his resignation and is busy cleaning out his office while his successor is being chosen? Yeah, that one. And never mind that Chief Spence’s credibility has pretty much been reduced to tatters because of her erratic behaviour and demands – her demand that Harper and the GG be at the table together is completely and wholly inappropriate.

As much as I am aware of, and accept the fact that the First Nations believe in the personal relationship with the Crown and treat Queen Victoria as a mythological Great White Mother, the GG can never, ever sit at the table with the Prime Minister. Ever. To do so, no matter how much symbolic weight the First Nations attach to it, would undermine our entire system of government. I don’t say this lightly either – having the GG at the same table is to implicitly state that he has a voice in policy. He does not. Ours is a system of Responsible Government, which means that the executive powers are exercised by the cabinet, who are drawn from and are responsible to the democratically elected legislature. But what is most upsetting, aside from the fact that most of the defenders of Spence have no concept of what Responsible Government means and who apparently believe the Queen to be magic, is the fact that they seem more than willing to engage in some form of constitutional relativism – that it doesn’t matter what the legal and constitutional realities that govern the country are, we should contort ourselves and undermine that very system in order to satisfy an incorrect vision by someone who is trying to hold a conversation with a metaphor. Or put another way:

“Imagine a group of scientists ignoring the periodic table and instead choosing to stick with the tried and comfortable principles of alchemy. Crazy right? So why are we giving any credence to political alchemists who want to deny 250 years of political development?”

Because that is what we are being asked to do in order to satisfy the demands for their symbolic beliefs – treat the advent of Responsible Government as if it didn’t happen, and that the Queen still rules as an absolute monarch.

Meanwhile, internal politics within the First Nations communities led to the cancellation of a planned meeting between an AFN delegation and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair at Stornoway last night, and instead an emergency meeting was held to try and hash out whether or not the meeting was still going ahead. Adherents to the rules of Calvinball declared that Harper and the GG needed to both be at the table, and not at the Langevin Block, where the meeting was scheduled, but rather at the Delta Hotel where the AFN meetings have been held the previous few days. And these were being delivered as demands, on the threat of protestors “bringing the economy to its knees.” There was also the rich irony of one chief demanding that the colonial relationship end – by having the GG at the table and implicitly declaring that the Canadian government has no sovereignty and that we are simply a Crown colony under the direct thumb of the Queen. So we’ll see what happens this morning, but the fact that terms are being dictated to from a political fantasyland doesn’t leave one with much hope that things can proceed.