February 8, 2013 – The senator Patrick Brazeau was removed from Conservative caucus this past week and I ask myself where did this go wrong.
To understand what pressures have been placed on Patrick Brazeau, you first have to understand what he could have possibly created and how he was seen by Canadians, whether he felt that way about himself or not.
Firstly, Patrick Brazeau was hopefully seen as a possible bridge between the voices of the First Nation Elders and the Canadian Elders in the Senate – a representative of Native voices in a house that most First Nations would have benefited from greatly had long-term understandings been established.
Instead, it seems as if long-standing stereo-types have simply been perpetuated.
By some of his own Algonquin people, Brazeau was seen as no more than another Louis Brandt the moment he swore allegiance to the pledge bearing the Queen’s name in the Senate. This anger and emotion from 200 years of built-up frustration of his people against their mistreatment from the Crown was all placed squarely on their scapegoat’s shoulders. This hindered his ability to represent their voices in the Senate. It certainly did not make things easier for the voices of the First Nations that were trying to establish seven generations of understanding with the Canadian house.
From the Canadian Federal side, Brazeau received not anger, but limited integration – never full access to the real opinion-forming influence that a Canadian Senator requires, but plenty of partners for celebrity boxing matches or other media-page events (as long as it was not the “opinions that matter” page).
A lack of seriousness encircled Brazeau on the Hill from the start. Not in the seriousness of the man himself or his honest efforts, but in the seriousness of how he was seen in the eyes of his peers on the Hill and, unfortunately, even down the line Brazeau was never accorded the seriousness and respect that are commonplace for other Senators.
And how did all this affect the man in the middle? The man stuck in between these two worlds still struggling to find peaceful co-existence? It may have just torn him apart – having to meet with the expectations and frustrations of his people on one side and the condescending attitudes on the other.
How else could he be expected to handle it? Especially when you factor in all the voices in his head pulling him down the stereo-typical path.
What will define Patrick Brazeau to me is the way he responds to his situation and sets his own path for the rest of his life.
What will define the peoples themselves is recognition from some amongst the First Nations that negotiating with the Crown, and negotiators are not a bad thing – a voice for them and not someone to be used as a scapegoat. But, most importantly what is needed is recognition from the Federal that Native voices need to be respected, not just ignored. Because the idea that it’s okay to ignore Native voices is the stereo-type that is re-enforced when someone is given the run-around as senator Patrick Brazeau was. It is that stereo-type, hidden beneath the layer of the “drunken Indian” stereo-type that people amongst the First Nations must realize and break through. Good Luck!