Jamie Whyte thinks Sweden's example of how to approach indigenous peoples is a good one to follow here. That means he supports a separate Maori Parliament for New Zealand.

Jamie Whyte obviously has decided to double-down on his whole "Maori are the noblesse de race of New Zealand" schtick, because if nothing else it's gotten people to pay him some attention. And he's also obviously decided that (as many a blogger also has realised) there's a lot more traction to be gained from generating a feud with someone else (damn you Scott Yorke! Damn you to hell!!) than there is in just shouting your views into the empty air.

So he's penned an "open letter" to the country's Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, asking her why she's being so mean to him when all he is calling for is something that other nice, respectable places are pursuing with alacrity.

Now, sure, the fact that he included Fiji on his list perhaps is a little surprising, given that we usually associate that place with somewhat brutal military rule rather than good public policy modelling. But he's the politician who must know what he's doing, not me, so I'll pass over that choice in silence.

Because his open letter also notes with approval that:

The Swedish Immigration Minister, Erik Ullenhag, considers that “the fundamental grounds of racism are based on the belief that there are different races, and that belonging to a race makes people behave in a certain way, and that some races are better than others.” The government rejects these sentiments.”

 “The concept of race is included in around 20 Swedish laws, including criminal code, student financial aid laws, and credit information laws. On Thursday the Swedish government began an investigation into how to remove the concept from all legislation, as has been done in Austria and Finland.”

This is then used as a basis for Jamie Whyte's challenge to Dame Susan; "do you consider it 'grotesque' that these countries are taking steps to ensure that race has no place in their laws?" Which is, one assumes, meant to be a rhetorical question. Because how could anyone regard the home of Robyn as being "grotesque"?

Well, it should not come as a complete shock to you to learn that Whyte has got his example pretty much completely wrong. A hint as to why this might be is that he claims to have sourced his information about Sweden from the "News Letter of the NZCPR.com", which is a bit like relying on The Daily Blog for learning about the benefits of free-trade agreements (and Boom! another blog-war kindled!!).

For it is true that Ullenhag is proposing to remove the term "race" from Swedish legislation. But this doesn't mean that Swedish law is going to become "the same" for everyone, in the way that Jamie Whyte claims Act wants for New Zealand:

After the coming election, ACT’s MPs will work to have all race-based laws repealed. The precise mechanism or process must be decided once a government is formed. But the particular process followed is not as important as the goal.

Here's a follow-up interview with Ullenhag, discussing what is intended by his Government for Sweden:

"First, we need to determine if we need something instead of race, a different expression," Ullenhag explained.

He said that in many laws the terminology should be an easy fix - it will still be illegal to discriminate against ethnic background or religion, for instance. The government also needs to make sure the new Swedish law proposals are in line with international human rights conventions.

"There are many international conventions that use the word race, so we have to make sure we don't miss anything. The problem is that the word 'race' is used differently in different countries," Ullenhag said.

Sweden must ensure that the decision complies with the EU Anti-Discrimination Directive, which demands that EU nations provide protection against discrimination on the grounds of "racial or ethnic origin".

And from that same article, here's a discussion of what happens in other European nations that Sweden is proposing to follow;

But Sweden's step, although seen by some as bold, is hardly ground-breaking. Austria has already "rejected the idea of separate races" and replaced the term race in legal texts with the term "ethnic affiliation", as is also done in Hungary. In French legislation references are made to "real or assumed" race, another method of watering down the term.

So far from creating "one law for all"  by entirely getting rid of all laws that are "race-based", these countries are instead simply revisiting and revising the way that they talk about "race" as a concept in their legislation. An equivalent in New Zealand would be to take s.3 of the Electoral Act 1993, which states:

Maori means a person of the Maori race of New Zealand; and includes any descendant of such a person

and reword it to read:

Maori means a member of an Iwi or Hapu; and includes any descendent of such a person.

That may (or may not) be a wise thing to do - but it certainly isn't the call that Jamie Whyte issued in Hamilton last week, which is what Dame Susan criticised him for.

Furthermore, if Jamie Whyte really wants to hold Sweden up as the model for New Zealand to follow, maybe he should take a closer look at how that country treats its own indigenous people.

Oh - what's that, you say? You didn't know that Sweden had an indigenous people?

Well, it does. The Sami, who have raised their Reindeer herds across the Nordic countries since the last ice age. They are Europe's sole recognised "indigenous people" at international law. So just how does Jamie Whyte's role-nation approach its equivalent to New Zealand's Maori?

Well, on 1 January 2011, the Swedish Constitution was amended to explicitly recognize Sami as a people. This followed a long-standing request of Sami to be distinguished from other minority groups in Sweden. Furthermore, in Sweden, 3,000 Sami practise reindeer herding, managing approximately 250,000 reindeer in areas scattered across the northern 40 per cent of the country.

Sweden's 1971 Reindeer Grazing Act then allows Sami to use land and water for themselves and for their stock. These reindeer-herding rights are exclusive and limited to those Sami who live within designated communities, called samebyar, and practise reindeer herding as their principal livelihood. And when it comes to accessing land for grazing purposes, Sweden's Supreme Court ruled in April 2011 that customary land use, showing due consideration to reindeer-herding practices, as opposed to Swedish property law, should determine the matter.

What is more, the Sami people have their own Parliament, the Samitinget, recognised by Swedish law and part-funded by Sweden (along with the other Nordic countries where the Sami live). While its powers are somewhat limited (it can't tax or legislate), it does have a bunch of administrative and financial responsibilities which are exercised in a special (dare one say it, seperate) way:

When it comes to State agencies, the norm is that the government has the right to stipulate directives for the operations, and the agency shall then act on the politics of the government. The government’s directives are formed through a special ordinance or instruction. Through their organization and objective, the Sami Parliament has a special status. The tasks of the Sami Parliament are written in an act, the Sami Parliament Act, and not in a government ordinance. The basic idea itself with a popularly elected body is that the Sami can independently take care of certain own concerns.

Just in case you're wondering who gets to vote for members of this Sami Parliament, here's a hint - it isn't all Swedish people. Instead, you have to be just like the Ancien Régime to take part in its elections.

So, for the second time today, a word of advice to my friends on the right of the political spectrum. Before putting out an "open letter" (or a media release, or other public document), make Google your friend. Because it really can save you from talking an awful load of garbage.

Comments (19)

by Brent Jackson on August 08, 2014
Brent Jackson

Heh

by Andrew Osborn on August 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Andrew, do you envisage a time limit on raced based legislation in NZ?

There are no pure bred Maori anymore and there is an on-going (and healthy) interbreeding of race in this country such that at some point in the future these racial definitions will become irrelevant.

The Treaty process is slow winding its merry way, hopefully to a conclusion. Once that's done and dusted do we still need our version of apartheid here?

Because outside of a tiny clique of academics, media types and treat lawyers, most of us are well and truly over it.

 

 

by Ian MacKay on August 08, 2014
Ian MacKay

What are these seperate Laws for Maori? The Maori Electorates may be a special Law but what else?

by william blake on August 08, 2014
william blake

Ian: the seperate Laws is Michael (silent H), Andew O's best friend.

by Andrew Geddis on August 08, 2014
Andrew Geddis

Because outside of a tiny clique of academics, media types and treat lawyers, most of us are well and truly over it.

Yet, oddly, the majority of Maori have chosen to enrol and vote on the Maori roll (while a majority of those Maori exercising their enrolment decision for the first time also choose the Maori roll), while the Crown has just made this deed of settlement regarding the Whanganui river.

But you may be right, and ACT will now see its share of the vote leap into the low-to-mid 2% region.

by Andrew Osborn on August 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Andrew: You didn't answer my question

That's telling

 

 

by Andrew Geddis on August 08, 2014
Andrew Geddis

Sorry, Andrew - got distracted by your claim that everyone (who counts, anyway) is "over it". But to address your points:

Andrew, do you envisage a time limit on raced based legislation in NZ?

Sure. Could happen. I don't know what my kids, or kids kids, or my kids kids kids will want to do with their country. That's their business.

There are no pure bred Maori anymore and there is an on-going (and healthy) interbreeding of race in this country such that at some point in the future these racial definitions will become irrelevant.

The nineteenth century called and says you need to come home at once. The idea that your "race" is defined by the "blood" in your veins is something that thinking people abandoned long ago. Make Google your friend and learn.

The Treaty process is slow winding its merry way, hopefully to a conclusion. Once that's done and dusted do we still need our version of apartheid here?

"Apartheid", no less! Bless. Seeing as you're the equivalent of a persecuted minority, I suggest you contact Desmond Tutu and have see if he'll give you the time of day to explain the dire situation you find yourself in.

by Andrew Osborn on August 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Ha ha. Not.

Apartheid means 'separate-ness' in Afrikaans and I view a legal system which does not view all people and groups of people as equal under the law as ultimately corrosive in society.

Once the wrongs have been righted, why not move on from your Victorian past? Because that's what the Maori seats are. 1864 is a long time ago!

As regards the definiton of race, that is where your argument comes unstuck. If there is no real difference (my view, by the way) how can you justify a separate electoral system?

 

 

by BeShakey on August 08, 2014
BeShakey

Perhaps you could help us all out by pointing to a jurisdiction that makes absolutely no distinction between different people or groups of people?

by Andrew Osborn on August 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Could I point out a society with no obesity or drug addiction?

No.

But that doesn't make either a grand idea, does it?

 

by william blake on August 08, 2014
william blake

1867.

by Andrew Geddis on August 09, 2014
Andrew Geddis

Apartheid means 'separate-ness' in Afrikaans and I view a legal system which does not view all people and groups of people as equal under the law as ultimately corrosive in society.

But "Apartheid" in its historical sense does not "mean" anything like reserved Maori seats apportioned on equal population terms as a part of a majority non-Maori legislature. It's a stupid analogy that is deeply insulting to people who actually experienced the reality of the term in practice - on a par with people who equate taxation with slavery, or who call DoC managers "Nazis". So, sure - you can have your views. But if you express them in this way, don't expect to be taken seriously.

As regards the definiton of race, that is where your argument comes unstuck. If there is no real difference (my view, by the way) how can you justify a separate electoral system?

Who said there is "no real difference" between Maori and non-Maori? All I said was that to trace that difference to the amount of "racial blood" has in a person's veins (which is what you did) is a silly and outmoded way of viewing the issue of cultural identity.

As for why there should be "seperate" Maori seats (which aren't actually seperate at all, but anyway), look at it this way. Is there a "difference" between people in North Dunedin and people in Epsom? If so, what is it? If not, why are there different electorates for each group?

by Andrew Osborn on August 09, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Oh now was have the classic "You can't say that because someone somewhere might be offended" gambit.

Sorry it doesn't wash. Moving on...

So you're now saying being Maori is a cultural thing rather than a nasty outmoded racial classification? But further up you said: "Yet, oddly, the majority of Maori have chosen to enrol and vote on the Maori roll ". How do you know this if it's just a cultural thing? For all you know there might be zillions of us out there in the general roll who feel Maori but nevertheless prefer not to be classified as such.

Teasing aside, ;-) I think that basically you're trying to defend the indefensible PC status quo. I understand where you're coming from, but I'm just asking you to broaden your outlook. At some point it needs to go. Because people of other cultures (chinese, pacifika etc etc) can also be offended...

 

by Andrew Geddis on August 09, 2014
Andrew Geddis
Oh now was have the classic "You can't say that because someone somewhere might be offended" gambit.

Nope. You can say it (and you did). It's just a stupid comparison to make. Moving on ...

How do you know this if it's just a cultural thing? For all you know there might be zillions of us out there in the general roll who feel Maori but nevertheless prefer not to be classified as such.

Why do you think that somehow cultural affiliation/identity is not as important or significant as measuring someone's "race" through the blood in their veins? There may well be "zilions" (well - thousands?) of people on the general roll who could legally identify as "Maori" for the purposes of enrolment. But if they don't, so what? Why do you seem to think that the existence of choice as to how you culturally identify means it somehow is not relevant?

I think that basically you're trying to defend the indefensible PC status quo. I understand where you're coming from, but I'm just asking you to broaden your outlook. At some point it needs to go.

Sure. Like I say, my kids, or their kids, or their kids kids may feel the need to go down the path you think so pressing. Me? Not so much.

by Andrew Osborn on August 09, 2014
Andrew Osborn

You've missed my point again.

I'm perfectly happy for folk to identify with whatever social group they fancy. It's called Freedom of Association. Race, creed, culture, sport, hobby. Whatever.

What I don't like is politcs and the law pandering to specific groups because I think equality before the law is paramount.

I'm certainly not losing any sleep over the duality in our electoral system, I understand where it comes from and whilst there is good will on both sides it's not a problem. But at some point in the future it will go past its sell-by date.

 

by Andrew Geddis on August 09, 2014
Andrew Geddis

You've missed my point again.

No. I didn't. You've made a point (that you don't like "racial privilege" in our laws), but you've also made it in a way that begs rebuttal. So if you're going to say things like (or, at least, imply things like) that a person's "race" depends on how much "blood" she or he possesses, and that New Zealand's experiment with biculturalism is the equivalent of South Africa's repressive regime, then you ought to expect a response.

What I don't like is politcs and the law pandering to specific groups because I think equality before the law is paramount.

Sure - that's a perfectly honourable position to hold. But it's not self-evidently the best one for us here in NZ to pursue, for lots of reasons. One being, whose law are you going to make paramount? The law that was here when Europeans arrived, or the one that they brought with them?

by Chris Webster on August 10, 2014
Chris Webster

Andrew: 'the law was here when europeans arrived, or the one that they brought with them'.

A matter eloquently & passionately discussed by Justice Joe Williams in the 2013 Harkness Henry lecture at Uni of Waikato. 

To quote the abstract in full:

Over the last 30 years legislation & Judge-made law affecting Māori, as Māori, has proliferated. In this New Zealand is unique. No other Western country has embraced indigeneity in law to the same extent.

 Everything from the legal status in general law of tikanga Māori & the Treaty of Waitangi, to the enforceability of aboriginal rights & title has been the subject of judicial pronouncement in the strictly common law realm.

 In the more dynamic field of Parliamentary law, Māori considerations, processes & even decision-makers have been inserted into statutes in a wide variety of legislation.

 Is there a broad pattern emerging in these judicial & Parliamentary interventions? Are there underlying ideas & principles in play in the gradual build-up of the Māori dimension in modern New Zealand law? Or are these developments just opportunistic, pragmatic, ad hoc & unconnected?

 In short, can the Māori dimension in New Zealand law now be mapped?

 Justice Williams will attempt answers to these questions & building on those answers, will make suggestions about drivers for change & expansion heading into the future in this increasingly important area of New Zealand law.

A link to the on-line resource (Harkness Henry lecture) will provide facts of legal history & also stimulate further debate .. based on evidence ..

https://www.youtube.com/embed/zK8ra0jWyEE?hd=1

by Chris Webster on August 10, 2014
Chris Webster

And the intro link to the promo.

by John Hurley on August 14, 2014
John Hurley

I don't think you can compare Sweden's Sami and Maori. Europeans colonised a temperate country, introducing agriculture to a hunter gatherer society with only one significant crop (the sub tropical kumara). The Sami however are adapted to a frozen wasteland.

On another point, blood versus cultural identity. I have followed that debate and it occured to me that it is o.k to have an identity but it involves choice (to a degree) and it may come at a cost to another party. The thought comes to mind of Malcolm Mullholand occupying Brighton Pier during the foreshore and seabed stoush.

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