Québec Native MNA Wants Out of Canada!
The conservative-nationalist wave of the Action Démocratique du Québec that swept the greater Québec City area and profoundly destabilized the Québec political map in the last few years has not yet reached the Far West of the province.
In Abitibi-Est it’s still about blues and reds, Liberals and Péquiste, Federalists and Separatists. The 25 year old Parti québécois MNA who beat Natural Resources Minister Pierre Corbeil in the last election doesn’t worry about Mario Dumont, but expects the good ol’ Liberal Party of Québec to fight back hard when the province goes back to the polls.
“I beat a cabinet minister. The establishment here in my city is very Liberal and they still have that defeat stuck in their throats. They never thought the kid could beat them. Especially not the Indian kid!”
Alexis Wawanoloath is an Abénaki-Québécois, son of an Huron-Abenaki mother and a white father. Although he recognizes that a native who is militant about Québec’s independence is a rarity, he insist that the supposed fierce hostility of Natives towards the project of Québec independence is greatly exaggerated.
“The majority of natives are not sovereignists but they see the link between the struggle of the Québécois for the survival of their language and culture and their own struggle.”
I got into contact with Alexis trough Facebook where his hundreds of friends, whites and natives, congratulate him in French and English about his new job and a new baby. He called me up from Brossard on the south shore of Montreal where he was attending his party’s caucus. He has a casual way of talking filled with youthful expressions like “full gros motivé” that had me struggling against the urge to use the informal “tu” with a member of the National Assembly.
His mere presence at the caucus is a step forward for natives, he says. He doesn’t even have to say a word and his colleagues will tend to think of First Nations when drafting positions and policy. He also says that even though most natives are not indépendantistes he now receives phone calls from First Nations across Québec who see him as their representative at the National Assembly.
Alexis is not the first native politician to take sides with the Québec Independence camp. There are others, including Bernard Cleary who was a Bloc Québécois MP in the Federal parliament from 2004 to 2006.
“Historically there has always been business relations between Francophones and Natives. The French traveled around the continent in smaller groups than the English so they had to have alliances and relationships with the natives. When people say the native population was exterminated by the French…”, Alexis sighs deeply… “That’s a bit strong. The “Law on Indians”, the orphanages, the reservations, those are all Federal institutions. They were instruments of assimilation. When I think of genocide, of cultural genocide, I think of federal orphanages.”
“It is always under PQ governments that the native cause went forward. Think of René Lévesque’s recognition of Natives as Nations in 1985 or the Paix des Braves signed by Bernard Landry. Sure, many of these deals, like those reached with the Cree Nation of northern Québec, had an economic ulterior motive, but I would like these achievements extended to all First Nations.”
Before running for office Alexis was president of the Aboriginal Youth Council of the National Association of Friendship Centres, a pan-Canadian native association. When he first decided to run for office as a sovereignist he says many of his colleagues from the rest of Canada were skeptical or disappointed. Now that he’s been elected, their attitude has changed. “Now they’re proud. Now many of them want to go into active politics in their provinces and they’re asking for my help.”
Click here to hear Alexis Wawanoloath talk about his dual identity. In French.
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