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Simple answers to Complex Questions and Complex Answers to Simple Questions. In real life, I'm a Greater-Toronto (Canada) Realtor with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd, Brokerage. I first joined RE/MAX in 1983 and was first Registered to Trade in Real Estate in Ontario in 1974. Formerly known as "Two-Finger Ramblings of a Forensic Acuitant turned Community Synthesizer"

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Canadians holding 'the long view' can learn from the Iroquois' Council of Grandmothers




Originally BlogEntry May 2006 - brought fwd to re-use UCL & Council of Grandmothers

Caveat to Readers:

This may be the first time you've examined the foundations of our government's Executive power structure particularly the REAL operations of the Governor General and Privy Council.

Not to worry -many things in and about government are well-known to the public (or presented for public consumption) in a form that is backwards or upside down to the truth.

An example is the much touted Freedom of Information legislation at fed & prov levels. These Bills should be more accurately entitled "Limits to/Restrictions on Access to Information" since the legislation outlines the issues, topics and conditions that will legally preclude the citizen from obtaining the info s/he requests. (more similar at end)

The Editors of Walrus Magazine,

Serendipity brought me to the Hon. Roy J. Romanow's "A House Half Built" on your webpage.

His lament for the nation's traditions, his many references to our Autochthonous peoples, his great sentence "We did not invent multiculturalism, we joined it in progress", his caution about potential great changes in Canada enacted on short-term time horizons made me think about what to do to forestall foolishness forced on us within 5 year mandates.

In short his quest was for 'the Long View' to be our pre-eminent political tradition.

If I may be so bold as to suggest a solution for Mr Romanow and the nation - let's take a lesson from the Great Iroquois Confederacy's governance model and see if adapting their 'Council of Grandmothers' to our BNA Confederation might provide us with that longer, common-good sense of what's right and what's not-so-right as policy for our people.

I was introduced to the Haudenosaunee, Deganaweda (whose name, I'm informed, should never be spoken aloud), the "real" Hiawatha and the Great Peace (the Kia eneri Kowa) by "Deganaweda -an old tale" (its first few paragraphs outline the story and the web will fill in the details for any whose interest is piqued).

My quest is to gain support for the application of the Haudenosanee's Council of Grandmothers' oversight of the warriors' decisions to Canada's "One Parliament"(BNA s.17).

"In the way of the Great Peace, women are the keepers of the family lineage and as the bearers of life, they teach the knowledge of harmony and balance within the family. The tribe is the extended family, and neighbouring tribes should be considered relatives who are necessary for a healthy genetic evolution, an extended family, if you will. The balance within the whole of a society originates with the individual. The balance of male/female within the individual expands to the relationship between man and woman, and then into relationship with their offspring. This then expands into the extended family. All women are mothers to all the children, as are all men their fathers. The tribe was a living ecosystem for human consciousness, a living heart.

Women had equal status within the tribal council. They formed the Council of Grandmothers that looked out for the survival of the family structure above all things, for without the family structure, the people could not continue. No major decision that would affect the tribe as a whole was ever made by one individual of either gender, or any singular council; all councils were accountable to the Council of Grandmothers. Thus, they had devised a matriarchal system whereby no structure of dictatorship could arise and seize power from the people themselves. There simply was no position that allowed for the rise of a tyrant within their society." (emphasis added)

To me, the House of Commons in Canada is NOT the place for final decisions, it's a place for introducing ideas and discussing them. Similarly the Prime Minister is NOT the final arbiter of Canadian life, but more like unto the Chief Spokesperson FROM the place of initial discussion.

The House of Commons (watch any Question Period) is a partisan 'sandbox' (C.D. Howe called Q.P. 'the Children's Hour') that masquerades (particularly since 1940) as a showcase for ideas and discussion, but is really a gathering place of the members of private, election-staging 'gangs' and is controlled (esp in majority) by the cabal-in-cabinet.

The Brits and Canucks who thought-through the BNA Act knew all this could/would unfold and devised a system to contain any potential mis-management by nice-looking sweet-talkers, promising bread and circuses to the multitude.

The Senate, with its property-ownership & net-worth qualifications (now lost to inflation) was supposed to represent the property-taxing constituency (no income tax then, while now most Canadians "participate" in the revenue-gathering) was to double-check the affordability of the Commons initiatives and any Act or act of these two groups was submitted for approval to the Executive Authority, embodied locally in the Governor General and ultimately in the Queen-in-Council over home (ss.9,10,12,13).

The GG (who often was a newbie) was to be advised by his/her own set of advisors (including some Cabinet members) styled the Privy Council (s.11) and this is where the Council of Grandmothers concept fits in.

All members of the Privy Council are sworn to loyalty and secrecy for life - their membership (and Oath) is never extinguished. Constitutionally, the Governor General (then and now) could summons all or any of them for a parlay on any issue OR appoint any of them to the various committees of the Privy Council ( Treasury Board etc) INSTEAD of having the SAME folks in Cabinet occupying ALL the seats on the Council committees that are supposed to oversee and make recommendations about the Cabinet decisions.

The Privy Council was designed to BE the Council of Grandmothers - the holders of the long view, the non-partisan advisors on what might be best for the future and the present BECAUSE they brought with them the wisdom of the past!

The Office of GG departs from the Haudenosanee model, but is "similar in Principle' to the traditions of Great Britain's Parliament in a Constitutional-Monarchy.

Although the Confederacy had devised a "system whereby no structure of dictatorship could arise and seize power from the people themselves. There simply was no position that allowed for the rise of a tyrant within their society", Britain did not - we know from history that the United Kingdom had had autocratic Monarchy-by-Royal-Proclamation and in a series of moves limited their King/Queen to the current "to be consulted, to encourage and to warn" role, where the Monarch is bound to accept the Advice of Her/His ministers.

So Canada got a Monarch-in-Council at the top across the Atlantic and 1) a Vice-Regal, acting as an individual (s.12) AND 2) a Vice-Regal-in-Council (s.13) to be 'the decider', on the ground, over here. The GG (and Lt Governors) grant(ed) Royal Assent to Bills from the local Legislative Order (or withheld or reserved Assent) and then ship(ped) His/Her decision to Britain for the final OK (ss.55,56,57,90) .

That's how it was supposed to work (and did operate) until an uppity Prime Minister tried to trump the constitutionally-valid decision of his Governor General and when he failed, he enacted a two-stage plan of revenge - to prevent THAT from ever happening to him again.

First in 1940, he appointed HIS man (now-called Secretary of the Cabinet and head of the Prime Minister's Office) to be simultaneously Clerk of the Privy Council and once he'd captured the 'head', just gradually took over the Privy Council itself.

How? well it WAS wartime and the idea/spin was to unify implementation of decisions on the war-effort. Who could/would/should object? Heck - it was an emergency! PLUS the only Officeholder who COULD/WOULD/SHOULD have rejected the then-PM's notion-to-usurp(the G.G. Lord Tweedsmuir ) had just died Feb 11/40 and his successor Lord Athlone didn't arrive until June 2/40) -*NEW facts* The long-serving Clerk of the Privy Council Lemaire (1923-1940) retired on Jan 1/1940 -

Second, the 'offended' PM lobbied long and hard that the GG should be a 'Canadian' and not some Brit passing through on his/her way up the ambassadorial food-chain.

Once control over the appointmentt process for the Vice-Regal post was in his pocket, no one and nothing (save the Queen-in-Council, a.k.a. British Cabinet, who'd similarly hobbled THEIR boss a few centuries ago) could stand in the way of the Rt Hon Wm Lyon Mackenzie King.

No subsequent PM's have found the need or desire to reverse the concentration of power delivered to their office by Order-in-Council P.C. 1940-1121. An the history books tell us ... the late P.Elliot Trudeau enhanced the PMO/PCO power by further concentrating decision-making into it's (and his personal) hands (his cabinet ministers were required to submit their departments initiatives to him before introduction to the full cabinet)

BUT .... if that Order was un-done AND we adopted a method of selecting a Governor General that would enable us to 'feel good' about one person holding a "veto" (no power to initiate, just the power to say Yes, No or Hold-on-a-second) , we'd be very close to following the provisions of the as-written, purposefully-devised BNA/Constitution and having re-established our own Council of Grandmothers.


Caveat to Readers
This may be the first time you've examined the foundations of our government's Executive power structure particularly the REAL operations of the Governor General and Privy Council.

Not to worry -many things in and about government are well-known to the public (or presented for public consumption) in a form that is backwards or upside down to the truth.

An example is the much touted Freedom of Information legislation at fed & prov levels. These Bills should be more accurately entitled "Limits to/Restrictions on Access to Information" since the legislation outlines the issues, topics and conditions that will legally preclude the citizen from obtaining the info s/he requests.

Better yet, the 180-degrees misunderstood Charter of Rights. This condition-ridden section of Constitution Act 1982, over-ride-able by any fed or prov legislature (s.33) is much loved by Canadians, but most of the lively discussions on it are in court rooms where judges decide when and if these 'rights' (that we already enjoyed at common law) can/may be trampled/not-recognized/ placed beneath one another by the exceptions granted in Section 1 . (NB The Premiers hated this Charter (they thought it gave too much power to the judiciary at the expense of the legislative order) and only went for it after their own-personal over-ride (s.33) was added.

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