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Anti-Treaty Trio Sink

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MAY 1982      v12 n04 p11  
Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub - the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington; the Lord Privy Seal, Humphrey Atkins and the Secretary of State, Richard Luce - these three men were the happy sailors who cast off the Royal Proclamation and the Indian Treaties in order to navigate the Canadian Constitution through the British Parliament and sail it across the Atlantic to Canada.

A day or two after they had advised the Queen that her obligations to the Indian Nations had already passed to Canada, all three men were shamed into resignation.

They resigned because they failed to protect a community of 1,800 people (the size of an average Indian band) on an isolated and barren piece of land nearly ten thousand miles from Britain, threatened with cultural assimilation and political and economic domination by its authoritarian neighbours. But the people of that community were British subjects and Britain had promised them that no changes would be made to their sovereignity and their constitutional status without their full and free consent. What is more, the British people were determined that these promises would be kept. Britain's honour was at stake - Carrington, Atkins and Luce had failed to uphold it. As we all know that community was not an Indian band, but the Falkland Islands.

The Queen must have found it all very confusing. One day Carrington and company advised her to repudiate the claims of 350,000 Indians and a few days later advised her to wage diplomatic and military warfare with Argentina to protect 1,800 sheep farmers. The Queen knew that the Indian Nations had much stronger claim on her protection than did the Falkland Islanders and the Indians asked Britain for far less than military protection of their sovereignity.

Perhaps it was a mistake to ask for so little. The Indians might have got a better response if they had asked Britain for six aircraft carriers and 4,000 marines.

The Indian and the Falkland Island issues are not unconnected. Policy announcements on the Falkland Islands crisis were made in the British Parliament back-to-back with the Canada Bill even while the House was still echoing with the impassioned speeches made on behalf of the Indian Nations. And in a BBC television interview the day of his resignation, Lord Carrington admitted to a national and international audience that he was forced to resign because of his mistake in taking his eye "off the ball" during the previous week when he was preoccupied with other matters.

One of those matters was the unfriendly reception given him and his stooges in both Houses when he unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Indian lobby from overpowering the debate on the Canada Bill.

Lord Carrington cared little for Indians, Humphrey Atkins even less. Richard Luce was affected by the Indian debate in the Commons and had little enthusiasm for his role as pilot of a Canada Bill which did not protect Indian rights. But there he was stuck in the tub with the others. Nobody wanted to rock the boat. And how silly they looked. Paddling one way on the Indian treaties and the opposite way on the Falkland Islands. Even British Foreign policy could not turn itself around that quickly without capsizing. So the tub went down and with it went the "unsinkable" Lord Carrington. Somebody should have told him about the Indian curse.