December 29, 2012 letter from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Meeting requested by Chief Theresa Spence of Attiwapiskat
We write to urge that you immediately arrange a meeting as requested by Chief Theresa Spence. Chief Spence wants a meeting on a Nation to Nation basis with the Prime Minister, the Crown, and the Provincial and Territorial leaders along with all the First Nations leaders to discuss First Nations’ inherent and treaty rights. The critical issues sought to be discussed are of concern not only to First Nations peoples in Canada but to all Canadians. Chief Spence has called on you to carry out your duties as the Prime Minister of Canada in a manner that accords with your duty to promote, maintain and protect the rule of democratically constituted law.
Please remember that Canada is constitutionally defined as a “free and democratic society” founded on principles that recognize the supremacy of the rule of law. This means that law must be formulated with the informed consent of the Canadian people. The equality rights in our constitution are meant to ensure that law is used as a tool to achieve justice for all. This is part of our traditional Anglo-Canadian constitutional heritage. These principles have been affirmed by international human rights treaties that Canada has ratified. The Canadian constitution also explicitly requires respect for “aboriginal and treaty rights”. Moreover, just as Parliament was established to ensure that law-making is founded on informed public discussion, so too the Supreme Court of Canada supports the right of Indigenous peoples to meaningful consultation on issues that concern them. In addition, we draw your attention to Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has endorsed, and which provides that
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
In summary, in this country it is unquestionably illegal to use the power of the State to destroy or repress rights or grant unwarranted privileges. Conversely, it is unquestionably legal to use all peaceful means to resolve both internal problems and external disputes.
Chief Spence’s requests for a meeting have been made peacefully and respectfully. She has chosen to draw your attention to important issues by starting a hunger strike that she will terminate when you have agreed to a meeting. She is widely supported by Indigenous people along with a broad range of others in Canada and abroad.
Protests have been triggered by Bill C-45, which violates the rule of law as it has traditionally been defined through the democratization movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Lumping together more than 550 provisions on more than 30 topics in a 443 page omnibus bill foreclosed the open public discussion and consultation that are essential according to both the Canadian constitution and the internationally defined democratic standard of prior informed consent. As such, the manner in which Bill C-45 was presented and passed fails to measure up to Canadian or international standards. Canadians are disturbed by this unprecedented retreat from democratic due process. Your refusal to meet as requested by Chief Spence reinforces deep concern about your government’s conspicuous departure from our Canadian belief that peaceful and participatory methods of exchanging information, formulating policy and resolving disagreements are the foundation of democracy.
In considering this request for consultation, please recall that First Nations have become experts on the mechanisms used to deny democratic consultation in Canada, because they have historically been denied access to equal participation in democratic law making, including the right to vote. During the process of colonization, Canada violated the rights of First Nations as sovereign and independent peoples with their own laws, governmental institutions and territories. Canadian sovereignty was simply assumed without the knowledge or informed consent of the original peoples. Lands and resources traditionally used by their ancestors were seized in violation of established English common law principles and measures were instituted to deny cultural, political, religious and economic freedoms. There were no Indigenous “Fathers of Confederation.” From 1876 to 1951, Canada’s Indian Act, excluded “Indians” from the definition of a person. There is still no respect for the many Indigenous polities that pre-date Confederation.
Canada has not yet corrected most of these historic wrongs. Although the equal right to vote was eventually granted in 1960, and you have personally made a formal apology for the residential schools programme, Canada has never respected the right of Indigenous peoples to choose whether or not they want to join Canada and, if so, under what terms. First Nations people in Attawapiskat and throughout Canada remain saddled with the consequences of over a century and a half of discrimination, neglect and government abuse. First Nations people in Canada do not even have equal access to education and social welfare.
LRWC urges you to demonstrate commitment to your duties as Prime Minister and respect for the legitimate concerns of First Nations peoples, concerns shared by many others. LRWC requests in the strongest terms that you promptly agree to the meeting requested by Chief Spence to peacefully discuss ongoing and threatened violations of the rights of First Nations peoples.
We request an immediate reply.
Gail Davidson, Executive Director, LRWC
Catherine Morris, BA, JD, LLM
Grace Woo, LL.B., LL.M., Ph.D.
Chief Theresa Spence
Attawapiskat First Nation
Attawapiskat ON P0L 1A0
Fax: (705) 997-2116
Media release: email@example.com
Chief Shawn Atleo
Assembly of First Nations
473 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1R 5B4
Tel : (613) 241-6789
Fax : (613) 241-5806
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnson
Governor General of Canada
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1
The Honourable John Duncan
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington, North Tower
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H4
The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
The Honourable Thomas J. Mulcair
Leader of the Official Opposition
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, 1A 0A6
The Honourable Bob Rae
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Ms. Elizabeth May, MP
House of Commons
518 Confederation Building
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Mr. Don Davies, MP
2951 Kingsway Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5R 5J4
Professor James Anaya
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: +41 – 22 917 90 06
By: Delores Schilling
We are united now and no matter what, THIS is what they were afraid of. And when we look around at each other and learn from each other, we realize no matter what – we have already won.
On December 10, 2012, thousands of our Native Brothers and Sisters in Canada took to the streets in the face of a grassroots movement entitled #IdleNoMore. According to the IdleNoMore.com website, this movement calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations; live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.
Aimed at righting the injustices placed on Native people– Idle No More events are attracting recognition on the world’s stage. The movement to unite all native people has been prophesized since our ancient ancestors walked this earth. Years ago, they spoke of the time when we would again come together.
The Idle No More Movement is a movement that was a long time coming. It was as if it has always been there, standing in the shadows, waiting for us to call for it to show its face. The new tools that grace the hands of contemporary Natives have already started to express their true power.
This has been surprising, I believe for all of us, and for our adversaries. The very nature of social media being at our fingertips is the antithesis of what those boarding schools worked so hard to destroy. The sense of community, learning from one another, realizing that we are all going through so much of the same things; this has been eye-opening and exciting for us as a baby taking its first steps. We burn with the knowledge that we now know how to walk.
We watched as we blurred the lines of Tribal infighting and worked together for the purchase of Pe’sla. We held each other close as we fought to make sure to be the keepers of the land, and praised each other for the wonderful achievement.
Because this achievement was NOT about Ego– it was about looking at each other and finally understanding that it has to be all of us working as a unit to bring about true change- we actually surprised ourselves. In the weeks following, we forged new relationships and claimed new family members that we will hold on to for the rest of our lives. We stand here and know that we all made history. Not one of us, all of us– The Human Family.
As with many events, we all felt all of these emotions together and expressed them in a public way through social media. We all sat back and wondered, “Now what?” In that small instance we looked around and realized the momentum was still there. It was not a one-time thing, it wasn’t a fluke. It was a movement.
We still have more to do, to give, to learn, to help… so we got to work.
We saw the words in the form of the hashtag #IdleNoMore. We sat back and thought what now? We had jumped on No Doubt for their insensitive music video and they listened. We took a stand against the hypersexual visuals with Victoria’s Secret and they listened. We looked at each other and said, “They actually heard us this time…”
So we told ourselves what we can stop on our watch. What can we do to make a lasting difference that means more than just removing a costume or a shallow video? #IdleNoMore became a focus that we couldn’t let go of.
We have to stand up with each other to be heard. We must make others understand. We have been quiet for too long. We speak to each other but not to the world. And they must hear us. So many of us have things to say – that we have kept hidden – that we have told ourselves doesn’t matter, but this is not true. YOUR WORDS ARE VALID AND IMPORTANT. We all have a voice and if each and every one of us speaks out, we will make difference in this world.
With Idle no more – we found a place where we can find our voice and take action on things we have been speaking about in our living rooms, conversations that never go any further than our community.
But, what if it did? What if the conversations made their way to the big stage? What if our words rang out and introduced our pain to the injustices felt throughout the world? This movement is bigger than all of us, but we are all a part of a truly peaceful idea that moves only when we stand as a united force and move together in the direction for the greater good.
I think we all felt the shift.
When we heard about Chief Theresa Spence, we all reacted in different ways. Many of us, including me, decided to fast along with her. Being in the states, I couldn’t have her fasting alone. I believe maybe that in some way that is what we all did.
With all actions and injustice coming out of Canada, we all reacted for once, as we should. We reacted to people violating our family in the broadest sense of the word. Yes, for once we were all one Human Family, with blurred Tribal lines. We came together to support a respected woman and promised to stand by her side regardless of the outcome.
We can’t say with certainty what will happen but we can vow to be what we always should be…UNITED. United as one, willing to give love first and foremost. To stand in the face of these injustices and no matter how hard we will use our voices. We will us our powerful words to make a difference. We will us our new tools of social media to connect, the new Digital smoke signal if you will.
We will help each other and work as a unit to right the wrongs, to heal our wounds, to tell our stories, to take the stigma out of the things we are too scared to talk about because we are ashamed. We will not let anyone break the unity that we have found, because it works and it is beautiful.
They can’t cut off our hair anymore. We can take back our languages and learn them, and we can live in the way that we see fit. We can teach our kids not to be afraid. We can accept Urban Natives that were assimilated and who are now begging to understand who they are.
We are united now and no matter what, THIS is what they were afraid of. And when we look around at each other and learn from each other, we realize no matter what – we have already won.
Monday, Dec 24th, 2012 11:30 am until 3:00 pm in EST – Sarnia, Ont:
IDLE NO MORE — Lac du Flambeau!! Flash Mob Round Dance
Monday, Dec 24th, 2012 12:00 pm – Minocqua, Wisconsin:
IDLE NO MORE Flash Mob – Lambton Mall
Wednesday, Dec 26th, 2012 12:00 pm EST – Sarnia, Ont:
IDLE NO MORE FLASH MOB PEACEFUL ROUND DANCE!!
Wednesday, Dec 26th, 2012 2:00 pm – Fort McMurray, Alberta:
“Idle No More” Flash Mob RoundDance-Animas Valley Mall, Farmington New Mexico
Wednesday, Dec 26th, 2012 6:00 pm MST – Farmington, New Mexico:
Wednesday, Dec 26th, 2012 – Sudbury, Ont:
FOUR DAY FAST (FEAST TO FOLLOW) IN HONOR OF CHIEF TERESA SPENCE – IDLE NO MORE
December 27 at 12:00am until December 31 at 12:00pm in CST – Regina, Sask:
Next Seattle #IdleNoMore Action:
Spinning Wind Next one- Idle No More Seattle
December 29 at 1:00pm
Westlake Center in Seattle, Washington
Idle No More Flash Roundy-Minneapolis/St.paul
Saturday, Dec 29th, 2012 5 pm – Minneapolis and St. Paul:
Idle No More – Write to Your local MP & PM Campaign (in French too – Traduction française ci-dessous)
Sunday, December 30, 2012 – Anywhere:
IDLE NO MORE – Flash Round Dance imaa GAKAABIKAANG
Sunday, Dec 30th, 2012 6:00 pm CST – Minneapolis:
***FLASH MOB ROUND DANCE*** Saskatoon
Tuesday, Jan 1st, 2013 – Saskatoon, Sask:
” Idle No More ” NCN Community Gathering on January 3rd, 2013
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 12:00pm until 2:00 pm – Port Alberni, BC:
Idle No More Solidarity Protest International Falls, Mn Border Crossing.
Saturday, Jan 5th, 2013 – International Falls, MN Border Crossing:
Idle No More: Turtle Island Movement – Border Blockade
Saturday, Jan 5th, 2013 – All of Canada:
#IdleNoMore VICTORIA: March and Rally
Saturday, Jan 26th, 2012 10:00 am until 2:00 pm – Victoria BC:
Idle No More – Edmonton – ONE Heartbeat
Monday, January 28, 2013 – 10:30am until 2:00pm in UTC-07:
Idle No More solidarity fast:
Follow Chief Spence on Twitter – Voice of #chieftheresa and her team. “I am on my 13th day and not stopping until the meeting takes place. Grassroots pple keep making noise” directly at https://twitter.com/ChiefTheresa
Mohawk Workers have embedded the @CheifTheresa Twitter feed at the top of our website for those who wish to stay updated and do not use twitter.
Canada’s placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government’s budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.
It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa’s parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is “willing to die for her people” to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has dismissed the escalating protest movement, saying “that’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes.” He told international media that relations with First Nations are “very good”. If only that were the truth. What remains unspeakable in mainstream politics in Canada was recently uttered, in a moment of rare candour, by former Prime Minister Paul Martin:
“We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power.”
The evidence – and source of the current anger and unrest – is hard to dispute. While Canada has the world’s largest supply of fresh water, scores of aboriginal communities have tapwater so foul they are under continual boil alert (pdf). Aboriginal peoples constitute 3% of Canada’s population; they make up 20% of its prisons’ inmates. In the far north, the rate of tuberculosis is a stunning 137 times that of the rest of the country. And the suicide rate capital of the world? A small reserve in Ontario, where a group of school-age girls once signed a pact to collectively take their lives.
Such realities have not stopped politicians and pundits from prattling on about the sums supposedly lavished on aboriginal peoples. The myth that aboriginals freeload off the state serves to conceal the real scandal: that most money pays for a sprawling government bureaucracy that keeps aboriginals poor, second-class, and dependent. The widespread notion that First Nations mismanage and squander what funds they do receive is simple prejudice: government reports acknowledge that communities are buried under a mountain of strict accounting; they areno more corrupt than non-native municipalities.
Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country’s two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.
Despite such odds, the highest courts of the land have ruled time and again in favour of aboriginal peoples. Over the last three decades, they have recognized that aboriginal nations have hunting, fishing and land rights, in some cases even outright ownership, over vast areas of unceded territory in British Columbia and elsewhere. And that the treaties Chief Spence is starving herself to see upheld – signed by the British Crown in the 1700 and 1800s, and the Canadian government until the early 1900s – mean the land’s wealth should be shared, not pillaged.
Federal and provincial governments have tried to claw back these rights using every means at their disposal: unilateral legislation and one-sided negotiations, spying on and demonizing aboriginal activists, and, when all else fails, shuttling troublesome leaders to jail.
Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.
Canadians have often turned a blind eye, having been taught to see the rights of aboriginal peoples as a threat to their interests. Dare to restore sovereignty to the original inhabitants, the story goes, and Canadians will be hustled out of their jobs and off the land. Or more absurdly, onto the first ships back to Europe.
But here’s the good news. Amidst a hugely popular national movement against tar sands tankers and pipelines that would cross aboriginal territories, Canadians are starting a different narrative: allying with First Nations that have strong legal rights, and a fierce attachment to their lands and waters, may, in fact, offer the surest chance of protecting the environment and climate. Get behind aboriginal communities that havevetoes over unwanted development, and everyone wins. First Nations aren’t about to push anyone off the land; they simply want to steward it responsibly.
Think of this as a sign of things to come: an image of Vancouver’s mayor, flanked by aboriginal chiefs, speaking out together against a destructive pipeline project. After all, who would Canadians rather control enormous swathes of rural, often pristine land : foreign corporations who see in it only dollar signs over the next financial quarter, or aboriginal communities whose commitment to its sustainability is multigenerational?
The importance of #IdleNoMore cannot be overstated. Grassroots movements are what have ensured the survival of aboriginal culture, and what remains of an aboriginal land base. If it grows in energy and coordinates in a network of activism like Defenders of the Land, it could be a powerful force to reset aboriginal-state relations.
It will not only ensure Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally takes the short drive from his office to visit an ailing Theresa Spence. It may also inspire non-native Canada itself, idle for too long, to reckon with the past and envision a very different future.
#IdleNoMore: A call to join a revolution honoring Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water & halts Colonial attacks on Indigenous rights which damage lands and waters.
#IdleNoMore page “Manifesto”:
We contend that:
The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between Canada and First Nations who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.
Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned – the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.We contend that:
Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time…Why would these promises be different from past promises? We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.
Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan: As Negotiating Tables Legitimize Canada’s Colonialism
The following editorial was originally featured in the First Nations Strategic Bulletin (FNSB), June-October 2012. You can view/download this latest edition of the FNSB by clicking the following link: FNSB June-October 2012
On September 4th the Harper government clearly signaled its intention to:
1) Focus all its efforts to assimilate First Nations into the existing federal and provincial orders of government of Canada;
2) Terminate the constitutionally protected and internationally recognized Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations.
Termination in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal coercion of First Nations into Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
To do this the Harper government announced three new policy measures:
- A “results based” approach to negotiating Modern Treaties and Self-Government Agreements. This is an assessment process of 93 negotiation tables across Canada to determine who will and who won’t agree to terminate Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights under the terms of Canada’s Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies. For those tables who won’t agree, negotiations will end as the federal government withdraws from the table and takes funding with them.
- First Nation regional and national political organizations will have their core funding cut and capped. For regional First Nation political organizations the core funding will be capped at $500,000 annually. For some regional organizations this will result in a funding cut of $1 million or more annually. This will restrict the ability of Chiefs and Executives of Provincial Territorial organization’s to organize and/or advocate for First Nations rights and interests.
- First Nation Band and Tribal Council funding for advisory services will be eliminated over the next two years further crippling the ability of Chiefs and Councils and Tribal Council executives to analyze and assess the impacts of federal and provincial policies and legislation on Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
These three new policy measures are on top of the following unilateral federal legislation the Harper government is imposing over First Nations:
- Bill C-27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act
- Bill C-45: Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 [Omnibus Bill includes Indian Act amendments regarding voting on-reserve lands surrenders/designations]
- Bill S-2: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
- Bill S-6: First Nations Elections Act
- Bill S-8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
- Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act [Private Conservative MP’s Bill, but supported by Harper government]
Then there are the Senate Public Bills:
- Bill S-207: An Act to amend the Interpretation Act (non derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights)
- Bill S-212: First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill
The Harper government’s Bills listed above are designed to undermine the collective rights of First Nations by focusing on individual rights. This is the “modern legislative framework” the Conservatives promised in 2006. The 2006 Conservative Platform promised to:
Replace the Indian Act (and related legislation) with a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal Canadians for their own affairs within the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Of course “modern” in Conservative terms means assimilation of First Nations by termination of their collective rights and off-loading federal responsibilities onto the First Nations themselves and the provinces.
One Bill that hasn’t been introduced into Parliament yet, but is still expected, is the First Nations’ Private Ownership Act (FNPOA). This private property concept for Indian Reserves—which has been peddled by the likes of Tom Flanagan and tax proponent and former Kamloops Chief Manny Jules—is also a core plank of the Harper government’s 2006 electoral platform.
The 2006 Conservative Aboriginal Platform promised that if elected a Harper government would:
Support the development of individual property ownership on reserves, to encourage lending for private housing and businesses.
The long-term goals set out in the Harper government’s policy and legislative initiatives listed above are not new; they are at least as old as the Indian Act and were articulated in the federal 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy, which set out a plan to terminate Indian rights as the time.
Previous Termination Plans: 1969 White Paper & Buffalo Jump of 1980’s
The objectives of the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy were to:
- Assimilate First Nations.
- Remove legislative recognition.
- Neutralize constitutional status.
- Impose taxation.
- Encourage provincial encroachment.
- Eliminate Reserve lands & extinguish Aboriginal Title.
- Economically underdevelop communities.
- Dismantle Treaties.
As First Nations galvanized across Canada to fight the Trudeau Liberal government’s proposed 1969 termination policy the federal government was forced to consider a strategy on how to calm the Indian storm of protest.
In a memo dated April 1, 1970, David Munro, an Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs on Indian Consultation and Negotiations, advised his political masters Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau, as follows:
. . . in our definition of objectives and goals, not only as they appear in formal documents, but also as stated or even implied in informal memoranda, draft planning papers, or causal conversation. We must stop talking about having the objective or goal of phasing out in five years. . . We can still believe with just as much strength and sincerity that the [White Paper] policies we propose are the right ones. . .
The final [White Paper] proposal, which is for the elimination of special status in legislation, must be relegated far into the future. . . my conclusion is that we need not change the [White Paper] policy content, but we should put varying degrees of emphasis on its several components and we should try to discuss it in terms of its components rather than as a whole. . . we should adopt somewhat different tactics in relation to [the White Paper] policy, but that we should not depart from its essential content. (Emphasis added)
In the early 1970’s, the Trudeau Liberal government did back down publicly on implementing the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy, but as we can see from Mr. Munro’s advice the federal bureaucracy changed the timeline from five years to a long-term implementation of the 1969 White Paper objectives of assimilation/termination.
In the mid-1980’s the Mulroney Conservative government resurrected the elements of the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy, through a Cabinet memo.
In 1985, a secret federal Cabinet submission was leaked to the media by a DIAND employee. The Report was nicknamed the “Buffalo Jump of the 1980’s” by another federal official. The nickname referred to the effect of the recommendations in the secret Cabinet document, which if adopted, would lead Status Indians to a cultural death — hence the metaphor.
The Buffalo Jump Report proposed a management approach for First Nations policy and programs, which had the following intent:
- Limiting & eventually terminating the federal trust obligations;
- Reducing federal expenditures for First Nations, under funding programs, and prohibiting deficit financing;
- Shifting responsibility and costs for First Nations services to provinces and “advanced bands” through co-management, tri-partite, and community self-government agreements;
- “Downsizing” of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) through a devolution of program administration to “advanced bands” and transfer of programs to other federal departments;
- Negotiating municipal community self-government agreements with First Nations which would result in the First Nation government giving up their Constitutional status as a sovereign government and becoming a municipality subject to provincial or territorial laws;
- Extinguishing aboriginal title and rights in exchange for fee simple title under provincial or territorial law while giving the province or territory underlying title to First Nations lands.
The Mulroney government’s “Buffalo Jump” plan was temporarily derailed due the 1990 “Oka Crisis”. Mulroney responded to the “Oka Crisis” with his “Four Pillars” of Native Policy:
- Accelerating the settlement of land claims;
- Improving the economic and social conditions on Reserves;
- Strengthening the relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and governments;
- Examining the concerns of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples in contemporary Canadian life.
In 1991, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney also announced the establishment of a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which began its work later that year; the establishment of anIndian Claims Commission to review Specific Claims; the establishment of a BC Task Force on Claims, which would form the basis for the BC Treaty Commission Process.
In 1992, Aboriginal organizations and the federal government agreed, as part of the 1992 Charlottetown Accord, on amendments to the Constitution Act, 1982 that would have included recognition of the inherent right of self-government for Aboriginal people. For the first time, Aboriginal organizations had been full participants in the talks; however, the Accord was rejected in a national referendum.
With the failure of Canadian constitutional reform in 1992, for the last twenty years, the federal government—whether Liberal or Conservative—has continued to develop policies and legislation based upon the White Paper/Buffalo Jump objectives and many First Nations have regrettably agreed to compromise their constitutional/international rights by negotiating under Canada’s termination policies.
Canada’s Termination Policies Legitimized by Negotiation Tables
It has been thirty years since Aboriginal and Treaty rights have been “recognized and affirmed” in section 35 of Canada’s constitution. Why hasn’t the constitutional protection for First Nations’ Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights been implemented on the ground?
One answer to this question is, following the failure of the First Ministers’ Conferences on Aboriginal Matters in the 1980’s, many First Nations agreed to compromise their section 35 Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights by entering into or negotiating Modern Treaties and/or Self-government Agreements under Canada’s unilateral negotiation terms.
These Modern Treaties and Self-Government Agreements not only contribute to emptying out section 35 of Canada’s constitution of any significant legal, political or economic meaning. Final settlement agreements are then used as precedents against other First Nations’ who are negotiating.
Moreover, Canada’s Land Claims and Self-Government policies are far below the international standards set out in the Articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Canada publicly endorsed the UNDRIP in November 2010, but obviously Canada’s interpretation of theUNDRIP is different than that of most First Nations, considering their unilateral legislation and policy approach.
Canada’s voted against UNDRIP on Sept. 13, 2007, stating that the UNDRIP was inconsistent with Canada’s domestic policies, especially the Articles dealing with Indigenous Peoples’ Self-Determination, Land Rights and Free, Prior Informed Consent.
Canada’s position on UNDRIP now is that they can interpret it as they please, although the principles in UNDRIP form part of international not domestic law.
The federal strategy is to maintain the Indian Act (with amendments) as the main federal law to control and manage First Nations. The only way out of the Indian Act for First Nations is to negotiate an agreement under Canada’s one-sided Land Claims and/or Self-Government policies. These Land Claims/Self-Government Agreements all require the termination of Indigenous rights for some land, cash and delegated jurisdiction under the existing federal and provincial orders of government.
Canada has deemed that it will not recognize the pre-existing sovereignty of First Nations or allow for a distinct First Nations order of government based upon section 35 of Canada’s constitution.
Through blackmail, bribery or force, Canada is using the poverty of First Nations to obtain concessions from First Nations who want out of the Indian Act by way of Land Claims/Self- Government Agreements. All of these Agreements conform to Canada’s interpretation of section 35 of Canada’s constitution, which is to legally, politically and economically convert First Nations into what are essentially ethnic municipalities.
The first groups in Canada who have agreed to compromise their section 35 Inherent and Aboriginal rights through Modern Treaties have created an organization called the Land Claims Agreement Coalition. The Coalition Members are:
- Council of Yukon First Nations (representing 9 land claim organizations in the Yukon)
- Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
- Gwich’in Tribal Council
- Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
- Kwanlin Dun First Nation
- Maa-nulth First Nations
- Makivik Corporation
- Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach
- Nisga’a Nation
- Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
- Nunatsiavut Government
- Sahtu Secretariat Inc.
- Tlicho Government
- Tsawwassen First Nation
- Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation
The Land Claims Agreement Coalition Members came together because the federal government wasn’t properly implementing any of their Modern Treaties. So the Coalition essentially became a lobby group to collectively pressure the federal government to respect their Modern Treaties. According to Members of the Coalition Modern Treaty implementation problems persist today.
The fact that Canada has already broken the Modern Treaties shouldn’t inspire confidence for those First Nations who are already lined up at Canada’s Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government negotiation tables.
According to the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs there are 93 Modern Treaty and/or Self-Government negotiation tables across Canada [http://www.aadncaandc.gc.ca/eng/1346782327802/1346782485058].
Those First Nations who are negotiating at these 93 tables are being used by the federal government (and the provinces/Territories) to legitimize its Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies, which are based upon extinguishment of Aboriginal Title and termination of Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
The First Nations who have been refusing to negotiate and are resisting the federal Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government negotiating policies are routinely ignored by the federal government and kept under control and managed through the Indian Act (with amendments).
Attempts by non-negotiating First Nations to reform the federal Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies aren’t taken seriously by the federal government because there are so many First Nations who have already compromised their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights by agreeing to negotiate under the terms and funding conditions of these Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies.
For example, following the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision, which recognized that Aboriginal Title exists in Canada, the Assembly of First Nations tried to reform the Comprehensive Claims policy to be consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision.
However, the then Minister of Indian Affairs, Robert Nault on December 22, 2000, wrote a letter addressed to then Chief Arthur Manuel that essentially said why should the federal government change the Comprehensive Claims policy if First Nations are prepared to negotiate under it as it is?
A fair question: why do First Nations remain at negotiation tables that ultimately lead to the termination of their peoples Inherent and Aboriginal rights, especially since it appears that Modern Treaties are routinely broken after they are signed by the federal government?
Many of these negotiations are in British Columbia where despite the past twenty years of negotiations the B.C. Treaty process has produced two small Modern Treaties, Tsawwassan andMaa’Nulth. The Nisga’a Treaty was concluded in 2000, outside of the B.C. Treaty process.
All of these Modern Treaties have resulted in extinguishing Aboriginal Title, converting reserve lands into fee simple, removing tax exemptions, converting bands into municipalities, among other impacts on Inherent and Aboriginal rights.
The Harper Government’s Termination Plan
Aside from the unilateral legislation being imposed, or the funding cuts and caps to First Nation’s and their political organizations, the September 4, 2012, announcement of a “results based” approach to Modern Treaties and Self-Government negotiations amounts to a “take it or leave it” declaration on the part of the Harper government to the negotiating First Nations.
Canada’s Comprehensive Claims Policy requires First Nations to borrow money from the federal government to negotiate their “land claims”. According to the federal government:
To date, the total of outstanding loans to Aboriginal groups from Canada to support their participation in negotiations is $711 million. This represents a significant financial liability for the Aboriginal community. In addition, the government of Canada provides $60 million in grants and contributions to Aboriginal groups every year for negotiations.
It is Canada’s policies that forced First Nations to borrow money to negotiate their “claims”, so the “financial liability” was a policy measure designed by the federal government to pressure First Nations into settling their “claims” faster. As the federal government puts it, the Comprehensive Claims negotiation process has instead “spawned a negotiation industry that has no incentive to reach agreement.”
This accumulated debt of $711 million along with the $60 million annual in grants and contributions have compromised those negotiating First Nations and their leaders to the point that they are unable or unwilling to seriously confront the Harper government’s termination plan.
Over 50% of the Comprehensive Claims are located in B.C.and the First Nations Summit represents the negotiating First Nations in B.C., although some negotiating First Nations have now joined the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), thus blurring the historic distinctions between to two political organizations. The latter organization previously vigorously opposed the B.C. Treaty process, but now the UBCIC remains largely silent about it.
These two main political organizations — the First Nations Summit and the UBCIC — have now joined together into the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council, further blending the rights and interests of their respective member communities together, not taking into account whether they are in or out of the B.C. Treaty process.
This may partially explain why the Chiefs who are not in the B.C. Treaty process also remain largely silent about the Harper government’s “results based’ approach to Modern Treaties and Self-Government negotiations.
First Nations in British Columbia are failing to capitalize on that fact, that since the Delgamuukw Decision, the governments have to list unresolved land claims and litigation as a contingent liability. Such liabilities can affect Canada’s sovereign credit rating and provincial credit ratings. To counter this outstanding liability, Canada points to the British Columbia Treaty Process as the avenue how they are dealing with this liability, pointing to the fact that First Nations are borrowing substantive amounts to negotiate with the governments.
Another recent example of how disconnected B.C. First Nations and their organizations are on international versus domestic policy and law, is the First Nations’ outcry over the recent Canada-China Treaty.
The B.C. Chiefs and their organizations are publicly denouncing the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement as adversely impacting on Aboriginal Title and Rights, yet they say or do nothing about Harper’s accelerated termination plan. It seems the negotiating First Nations are more worried about the Canada-China Treaty blocking a future land claims deal under the B.C. Treaty process.
The Chiefs and their organizations at the B.C. Treaty process negotiation tables have had twenty years to negotiate the “recognition and affirmation” of Aboriginal Title and Rights, but this continues to be impossible under Canada’s policies aiming at the extinguishment of collective rights. As a result only two extinguishment Treaties have resulted from the process. Even Sophie Pierre, Chair of the B.C. Treaty Commission has said “If we can’t do it, it’s about time we faced the obvious – I guess we don’t have it, so shut her down”.
By most accounts the twenty year old B.C. Treaty process has been a failure. It has served the governments’ purpose of countering their contingent liabilities regarding Indigenous land rights. Yet it seems the negotiating First Nations are so compromised by their federal loans and dependent on the negotiations funding stream that they are unable or unwilling to withdraw from the tables en masse and make real on the demand that the Harper government reform its Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies to be consistent with the Articles of theUNDRIP.
The same can also be said for the negotiating First Nations in the Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regions.
The Chiefs who are not in the B.C., Quebec or Atlantic negotiating processes have not responded much, if at all, to Harper’s “results based” approach to Modern Treaties and Self-Government. The non-negotiating Chiefs seem to be more interested in managing programs and services issues than their Aboriginal Title and Rights. As one federal official put it, the Chiefs are involved in the elements of the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy like economic and social development while ignoring the main White Paper objective—termination of First Nations legal status.
Given their silence over the Harper government’s “results based” “take it or leave it” negotiations approach, it seems many of the negotiating First Nations at the Comprehensive Claims and/or Self-Government tables are still contemplating concluding Agreements under Canada’s termination policies.
This can only lead to further division among First Nations across Canada as more First Nations compromise their constitutional and international rights by consenting to final settlement agreements under the terms and conditions of Canada’s termination policies, while undermining the political positions of the non-negotiating First Nations.
In the meantime, Harper’s government will continue pawning off Indigenous lands and resources in the midst of a financial crisis though free trade and foreign investment protection agreements, which will secure foreign corporate access to lands and resources and undermine Indigenous Rights.
Some First Nation leaders and members have criticised AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo for agreeing to a joint approach with the Harper government, including the Crown-First Nations Gathering (CFNG), but to be fair, the Chiefs across Canada did nothing to pressure Prime Minister Harper going into the CFNG. Instead, many Chiefs used the occasion as a photo op posing with the Prime Minister.
The negotiating First Nations who are in joint processes with Canada seem to be collectively heading to the cliff of the “Buffalo Jump” as they enter termination agreements with Canada emptying out section 35 in the process.
Much of the criticism of AFN National Chief Atleo has come from the Prairie Treaty Chiefs. Interestingly, if one looks at the federal chart of the 93 negotiation tables not too many First Nations from historic Treaty areas are involved in the Self-Government tables, except for the Ontario region where the Union of Ontario Indians and Nisnawbe-Aski Nation are negotiating Self-Government agreements.
As a result of the September 4, 2012 announcements regarding changes to Modern Treaties and Self-Government negotiations, cuts and caps to funding First Nations political organizations and unilateral legislation initiatives, it is obvious that Prime Minister Harper has tricked the AFN National Chief and First Nations by showing that the CFNG “outcomes” were largely meaningless.
One commitment that Prime Minister Harper made at theCFNG—which he will probably keep—Is making a progress report in January 2013. The Prime Minister will probably announce the progress being made with all of the negotiating tables across Canada, along with his legislative initiatives.
It appears First Nations are at the proverbial “end of the trail” as the Chiefs seem to be either co-opted or afraid to challenge the Harper government. Most grassroots peoples aren’t even fully informed about the dangerous situation facing them and their future generations.
The only way to counter the Harper government is to:
- have all negotiating First Nations suspend their talks; and
- organize coordinated National Days of Action to register First Nations opposition to the Harper government’s termination plan;
- Demand Canada suspend all First Nations legislation in Parliament, cease introducing new Bills and
- Change Canada’s Land Claims and Self-Government Policies to “recognize and affirm” the Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations, including respect and implementation of the Historic Treaties.
If there is no organized protest and resistance to the Harper government’s termination plan, First Nations should accept their place at the bottom of all social, cultural and economic indicators in Canada, just buy into Harper’s jobs and economic action plan—and be quiet about their rights.
The First Nations Strategic Bulletin is a publication of the First Nations Strategic Policy Counsel, an informal group of individuals who are practitioners in either First Nations policy or law. The publication is a volunteer non-profit effort and is part of a series. For Back Issues Go To: Canada Library & Archives – Electronic Collections.
Russell Diabo is the Publisher and Editor of First Nations Strategic Bulletin. He can be reached via E-mail: at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 Rebecca Sommer reported that 70 indigenous leaders from Mato Grosso do Sul and various other regions of Brazil were in the capital, Brasilia, to deliver to the Brazilian authorities over twenty thousand signatures from the campaign “I support the Indigenous Cause.”
(See full article with links to U.N. submission)
The movement claims:
i) the demarcation of indigenous lands;
ii) the rejection of the Constitutional Amendment Proposal nr. 215 (PEC
iii) the judgment of all urgent actions underway in the Supreme Court (STF) involving indigenous peoples’ rights.
The Grand River Mohawks (as the Mohawk Workers) support our cousins in Brasilia and elsewhere within Turtle Island. Onkwehonwe here within our territory, and throughout Canada are also in the midst of bringing these very same issues to the forefront in order that they be dealt with pursuant to customs and justice.
Submissions have already been forwarded to The United Nations via 2 U.N. Special Rapporteurs, (Food / Indigenous Rights) and we vow to continue to pursue justice relentlessly for the sake of future generations. Together our voices shall be heard.
Chiefs confronted at entrance to the House of Commons chamber & refused entry: told “You are not going to accomplish anything”
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee led Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Derek Nepinak into the House of Commons today.
“We were asked to come in here,” Madahbee is quoted as saying when blocked by state security.
“No, not in the chamber,” a security official replied.
“We need to go into the House of Commons,” said Chief Day. “We allowed them onto this land. We signed treaties with this government.”
But the state security guards barred the way.
It was Fox who had called the chiefs that morning to leave the plush confines of the Hilton hotel at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Que., cross the Ottawa River and take their message to Parliament Hill. The chiefs are meeting there this week as part of their annual Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly.
“We tried to enter into the house in order to deliver our message to all Members of Parliament and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a peaceful way that our Inherent and Treaty Rights aren’t negotiable.