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The governing body of the Ontario Medical Association recently voted down a motion to open its meetings with the currently fashionable acknowledgment that “you are on treaty land.” They were roundly criticized for their effrontery by Indigenous spokespeople.

Andre Picard wrote an article in The Globe and Mail thoroughly scolding them and saying that the doctors’ refusal to bow to this new fashion “makes them look glib, wallowing in their privilege, and worst of all, indifferent to the all-important issue of reconciliation.”

Well! They’ve certainly been told off. (And the president of the association subsequently issued an apology, although the motion has not been repealed.)

Picard is prepared to imply that Ontario’s doctors are pigs, so convinced is he that this new pro forma meeting opener is vital to his vision of reconciliation.

I’m not privy to the doctors’ discussions leading up to their refusal to be cowed into following the crowd on the use of this new treaty land meeting opener, but I’m guessing that their refusal was made – at least in part – because it wasn’t clear to them exactly what they were signing up for if they followed the crowd and used the trendy new opener.

Is the treaty land acknowledgment simply the polite nod towards reconciliation that the outraged Picard thinks it is? Or is it something more than that? Is there a price attached to its use that will become apparent at some point?

I suggest that the treaty land acknowledgment does indeed come with a price. I believe that it’s part of a very sophisticated strategy to soften Canadians up for a new and radical campaign to rewrite treaties.

Indigenous advocates and their expensive lawyers are preparing the public to accept the notion that Indigenous groups retain some degree of ownership in virtually all of Canada’s land mass. They’re already testing this with their pursuit of “modern treaties.” It’s all based on the innocent-sounding notion that we all “share the land.”

If this campaign is successful, Picard should be aware that he doesn’t own his house in the way he thought he did. He will be obliged to ‘share’ his property in some as yet unspecified way.

Picard may be fine with that. When it comes to my property, I’m not. I worked hard to buy my property and I choose not to share it with anyone outside of my family. I also don’t give acknowledgements to the previous owners of my property, and that includes people from the distant past who may have hunted on it. And if my attitude offends anyone, I offer no apology.

My selfish attitude also extends to public lands that were properly ceded by treaty. As a citizen of Canada and part owner of that land, I object to the surrender of any part of that land, whether it be for purposes of reconciliation or anything else.

The Ontario Medical Association is to be commended for actually taking the time to do a bit of thinking before blindly accepting this slick new “you are on treaty land” slogan. They probably recognize it for what it is – a clever marketing ploy.

And if they need a good meeting opener, let me suggest a singing of O Canada.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy a western Canadian-based think-tank.

treaty land

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