The Ottawa Citizen



First Nations log-jam

A rare thing has happened. A "native" blockade in the northern part of the Outaouais has ended quietly and relatively quickly. A group called the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples has what it wants: talks with Quebec officials on behalf of those it represents.

Exactly who those people are, though, is in some question. Algonquin leaders from a nearby reserve say they don't support the blockade and even hint that they believe these are actually non-natives trying to gain access to hard-won aboriginal logging rights.

Canada has programs and laws intended to benefit aboriginal people as a way of redressing historical inequities or honouring treaties. But that "advantage" is based on bloodlines that sometimes are uncertain, leaving open the potential for abuse if the prerogative of identifying oneself is left solely to the individual. Who then should determine who is an aboriginal Canadian: The federal government? The native bands or their organizations? It is a tricky path, especially when access to precious and increasingly scarce resources, which more and more will be included as part of aboriginal title, will be on the line.

The real question we will eventually have to confront is whether these preferences can continue to exist at all.