June 17 Mohawk Workers’ Delegation to Ottawa
The Mohawk Workers, sanctioned by Ohrerekó:wa, Principle Chief for Ka-nyen-geh-ha-ka Wolf Clan (Mohawks) of Grand River met with Dr. Carolyn Bennett (MP, Aboriginal Affairs Critic / Chair of the Liberal Woman’s Caucus) in Ottawa on June 17, 2013. Dr. Bennett’s staff also took part in the meeting. Bill Squire, spokesperson for Onkwehon:we Turtle, Wolf & Bear clans presented Dr. Bennett with a beautiful gift hand-made by one of our women, which Dr. Bennett appreciated a great deal. It was a flower braided with sweet grass, and decorated with purple and white beads. During the meeting, Dr. Bennett expressed genuine concern for the situation, and revealed her passion for these issues. She has asked the Mohawk Workers to continue to dialogue with her, and reminded us that Justin Trudeau wishes to engage on these issues personally as well. We agreed to continue to communicate and work together on solutions which can bring people together while at the same time educating on the critical issues. She was thankful also for the material provided to her, and vowed to review it thoroughly.
After the meeting with Dr. Bennett at Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, we were able view some debate in the House of Commons on the subject of Bills S-6 (First Nations Elections Act), Bill S-8 (Safe Drinking Water for First Nations) and Bill C-428 (Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act).
NOTE: Harper’s new policy measures include unilateral federal legislation the Harper government is imposing over Onkwehon:we which include:
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]
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 Onkwehon:we 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. (Create municipal-styled structures where Onkwehonwe are taxed).
Of course “modern” in Conservative terms means assimilation of Onkwehon:we by termination of their collective rights and off-loading federal responsibilities onto the Indigenous Peoples themselves and the provinces.
In addition, the regime seems intent on what is being called “First Nations’ Private Ownership Act (FNPOA)”. This private property concept for Indian Reserves — which had been peddled by the likes of disgraced 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 at the time.
Indeed, from listening to the House of Commons today, 2 things were clear:
1) Harper’s regime is intent on pursuing widening assimilation policies incrementally and based on Municipal models in order to unlock and commercialize resources as a method of funding reservation models;
2) While there are some MPs who are clearly aware of this agenda, and are standing against it – this opposition is academic in nature – by that I mean that in the end, the assimilation will continue despite the debate in the House. While these issues were being debated, only a handful of MPs bothered to even attend the debate. (The entire House was virtually deserted – save for a 1/2 dozen or so – a few of whom took the time to express their opposition to what is being done).
Next, our delegation also met with The Ambassador for Switzerland, Ulrich Lehner and his staff. Switzerland is a multi-cultural and multilingual (French/German/Italian) nation shaped by the will of its people. It has been a federal State since 1848. Switzerland has a federal structure with three different political levels: the Confederation, the cantons and the communes.
Switzerland is a federal republic with a system of direct democracy in which the people are “sovereign”. All Swiss citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. They get to exercise this right regularly, as they are called on three to four times a year to take part in popular votes on a variety of political issues.
Switzerland enjoys close political and economic ties with a large number of countries around the world and is a member of various international organisations. In 2002, Switzerland became the 190th member of the United Nations following a nationwide vote on the issue. Prior to this, Switzerland had played an active role in various UN bodies.
The goals of Swiss foreign policy are:
Peaceful co-existence of people of all nations
Promotion of and respect for human rights
Representing the interests of Swiss businesses abroad
Combating need and poverty in the world
The Ambassador seemed to take a keen interest in the Mohawks’ situation as it was set out. He had already been made aware of Canada’s human rights issues, particularly in respect of Indigenous Peoples – and pointed out that this past comprehensive review of the State of Canada in Geneva did not go well for Canada in his mind. He applauded and supported our efforts with James Anaya the UN Special Rapporteur who met with the delegation in New York on May 20th which he had not known about. In fact, he supported this avenue stating that it was precisely the right way to go in these circumstances. Also, he was informed of new cooperative opportunities which may be of interest to the people of Switzerland, and we agreed to continue to dialogue on all matters. I can describe the meeting as warm and friendly – and I was very pleased to see that we were welcomed by the Swiss Ambassador and the Embassy staff in such a way. The Ambassador also appreciated the material which was provided to him, took considerable interest, and agreed to review same as well as seeking instructions from his superiors in order to determine the level of involvement or assistance which may be offered. We were very thankful for the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador and look forward to remaining in contact.
The delegation will be available to discuss the trip and related developments in greater detail at the next meeting of Mohawk Workers set for Wednesday June 19th, at 7:30 pm at Kanata.