These extracts are from a speech given by Gerry Gambill at a conference on human rights at Tobique Reserve in New Brunswick. In this speech, he warned Indigenous people about how society goes about taking away their human rights.
Can you guess what year this speech was given? Read on and we’ll tell you at the end.
Note: The speech was given at a time when the word “Indian” was used by the government to refer to Indigenous people and it was common to default pronouns to he (him/his).
On the Art of Stealing Human Rights
From a speech by Gerry Gambill
The art of denying Indians their human rights has been refined to a science. The following list of commonly used techniques will be helpful in “burglar-proofing” your reserves, and your rights.
GAIN THE INDIANS COOPERATION. It is much easier to steal someone’s human rights if you can do it with his OWN co-operation. So,
- Make him a non-person. Human rights are for people. Convince Indians their ancestors were savages, that they were pagan, that Indians were drunkards. Make them wards of the government. Make a legal distinction, as in the Indian Act, between Indians and persons. Write history books that tell half the story.
- Convince the Indian that he should be patient, that these things take time. Tell him that we are making progress, and that progress takes time.
- Make him believe that things are being done for his own good. Tell him you’re sure that after he has experienced your laws and actions that he will realise how good they have been. Tell the Indian he has to take a little of the bad in order to enjoy the benefits you are conferring on him.
- Get some Indian people to do the dirty work. There are always those who will act for you to the disadvantage of their own people. Just give them a little honor and praise. This is generally the function of band councils, chiefs, and advisory councils: they have little legal power, but can handle the tough decisions such as welfare, allocation of housing etc.
- Consult the Indian, but do not act on the basis of what you hear. Tell the Indian he has a voice and go through the motions of listening. Then interpret what you have heard to suit your own needs.
- Insist that the Indian “GOES THROUGH PROPER CHANNELS.” Make the channels and the procedures so difficult that he won’t bother to do anything. When he discovers what the proper channels are and becomes proficient at the procedures, change them.
- Make the Indian believe that you are working hard for him, putting in much overtime and at a great sacrifice, and imply that he should be appreciative. This is the ultimate in skills in stealing human rights; when you obtain the thanks of your victim.
- Allow a few individuals to “MAKE THE GRADE” and then point to them as examples. Say that the ‘HARDWORKERS” AND THE “GOOD” Indians have made it, and that therefore it is a person’s own fault if he doesn’t succeed.
- Appeal to the Indian’s sense of fairness, and tell him that even though things are pretty bad it is not right for him to make strong protests. Keep the argument going on his form of protest and avoid talking about the real issue. Refuse to deal with him while he is protesting. Take all the fire out of his efforts.
- Encourage the Indian to take his case to court. This is very expensive, takes lots of time and energy and is very safe because laws are stacked against him. The court’s ruling will defeat the Indian’s cause, but makes him think he has obtained justice.
- Make the Indian believe that things could be worse, and that instead of complaining about the loss of human rights, to be grateful for the rights we do have. In fact, convince him that to attempt to regain a right he has lost is likely to jeopardize the rights that he still has.
- Set yourself up as the protector of the Indian’s human rights, and then you can choose to act only on those violations you wish to act upon. By getting successful on a few minor violations of human rights, you can point to these as examples of your devotion to his cause. The burglar who is also the doorman is the perfect combination.
- Pretend that the reason for the loss of human rights is for some other reason that the person is an Indian. Tell him some of your best friends are Indians, and that his loss of rights is because of his housekeeping, his drinking, his clothing.
- Make the situation more complicated than is necessary. Tell the Indian you will have to take a survey to find out how many other Indians are being discriminated against. Hire a group of professors to make a year-long research project.
From a speech given by Gerry Gambill in 1958