DEFENDING OUR SOVEREIGNTY

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bill S-2 - Family Homes on Reserves: Protection or Threat?

On Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Minister John Duncan introduced Bill S-2 An Act Respecting Family Homes Situated on First Nation Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights in or to Structures and Lands Situated on Those Reserves in the Senate where it had its First Reading. The short name for this proposed legislation is Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act. The full text can be found at this link:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Bills/411/Government/S-2/S-2_1/S-2_1.PDF

As some of you may recall, this is the fourth attempt at passing federal legislation that would address what Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is referring to as a 'legislative gap' in relation to how property gets divided upon the break up of a common law relationship or marriage. The previous bills, Bill C-8, Bill C-47 and Bill S-4 all died on the order paper, but not before Aboriginal organizations, First Nations, Indigenous women, and other groups like family law lawyers and the Canadian Bar Association all unanimously testified against the bills.

Now, with a majority government, the Harper Conservatives plan to ram this legislation through Parliament against our will. INAC has again introduced this legislation without engaging in formal legal consultations with those First Nations whose constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights may be negatively impacted. Given that this is national legislation that will apply to ALL First Nations and given that reserve lands are protected in the Indian Act, the Constitution Act, 1982, and various Treaties, land claims and self-government agreements, there is no doubt that this legislation requires formal legal consultation as envisioned in the Guerin, Delgamuukw, Haida, Taku and Mikisew decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The majority of my concerns in relation to this legislation were explained in earlier blogs in relation to the previous Bill S-4 by the same name. My previous blogs were entitled:

Bill S-4: An Empty Shell of a Legislative Promise

http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/2010/06/bill-s-4-empty-shell-of-legislative.html

Bill S-4: Backdoor Assimilation and Land Grab

http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/2010/06/bill-s-4-backdoor-assimilation-and-land.html

Bill S-4: A Step Back in Time

http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/2010/06/bill-s-4-step-back-in-time.html

Letter to editor of Globe & Mail re Bill S-4

http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/2010/07/letter-to-editor-of-globe-mail-re-bill.html

In these previous blogs, I explained the history, the development of the bill, my main concerns with it and my recommendations to amend it. These are the same concerns I brought forward when I testified as an independent expert witness before the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on June 7, 2010 in relation to Bill S-4. I am not sure if I will be called again to testify in relation to this 'new' bill, but I hope so. The following is a link to my official submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights in relation to Bill S-4:

http://www.nonstatusindian.com/docs/Presentation2SenateCommittee-HumanRights.pdf

I have read through the new bill in its entirety and while some amendments have been made, the core essence has remained and will have a significant impact not only on the nature and legal status of reserve lands generally, but specifically in relation to who can hold, occupy, use and benefit from reserve lands. Given that most First Nations have medium to high rates of out-marriage (marriages to non-Indians), the exclusive 'benefit' of reserve lands to which Indians are entitled could be significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated in some First Nations.

If there is any right of First Nations men, women, and children that demands full and informed consultation, accommodation and consent, is that of their constitutionally and now internationally protected rights in their own reserve lands. The current lack of consultation is criminal and any attempt to pass this legislation will not only breach our treaties, land claims, and self-government agreements, but will create an additional significant and substantial harm to Indigenous women who have only asked for justice - not a loss of their collective Aboriginal rights.

If Tom Flanagan's and Manny Jules' plan to privatize reserves does not eliminate our reserves, this bill surely will. Stand up, make your voice heard and protect what little land we have left for our future generations!

For all you rabble fans, this blog and others can also be viewed on rabble.ca under blogs! http://rabble.ca/blogs

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First Nations Sign Agreement with Federal and Provincial Governments in NB to Negotiate Self-Government

It was reported earlier this week that 10 out of 15 First Nations in NB signed an agreement with the federal and provincial governments to negotiate self-government. It was then subsequently reported that all 15 First Nations in NB have signed on. However, after speaking with several First Nations, I understand that only 10 First Nations signed, and only one was Maliseet.

I don't have an original signed copy, but I have been provided with the text by one of the First Nations. Many people have been emailing me and asking for a copy of the agreement which I have copied below. Please always refer to the original as the official document:

MI’GMAG, WOLASTOQIYIK, NEW BRUNSWICK and CANADA UMBRELLA AGREEMENT

 -among-

 THE MI’GMAG AND WOLASTOQIYIK PEOPLES IN NEW BRUNSWICK, as represented by the Chiefs of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik First Nations in New Brunswick (“the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick”)

 -and-

 THE PROVINCE OF NEW BRUNSWICK, as represented by the Minister Responsible for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat of New Brunswick (“New Brunswick”)

 -and-

 THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA, as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (“Canada”)

 Collectively referred to as “the Parties”:

 RECITALS:

 WHEREAS

 The Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik Peoples assert that they have used and occupied their Traditional Lands since time immemorial in accordance with principles of stewardship and responsibility given to them by the Creator; and

 The Parties wish to renew and strengthen their government-to-government-togovernment relationship; and

 The Parties are dedicated to the principles of good faith, openness, mutual honour and respect; and

 The Parties are committed to formal tripartite discussions in order to address outstanding issues among the Parties; and

 The Parties recognize that the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick have not enjoyed the same standard of living as other New Brunswickers; and

 The Parties have a shared desire to work in partnership with the shared goal of improving the quality of life outcomes of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick; and

 Page 2 of 7

 The Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik Peoples and the British Crown entered into sacred Treaties. Those Treaties established a relationship based on peace and friendship; and The Parties intend to negotiate and implement agreements on Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including the right to self-government.

 THEREFORE THE PARTIES HAVE REACHED THE FOLLOWING UNDERSTANDINGS:

 OBJECTIVE OF THE UMBRELLA AGREEMENT

 1) This Umbrella Agreement is designed to guide tripartite discussions with the aim of concluding a Framework Agreement on inter-governmental relationships and Aboriginal and Treaty rights and the self-government of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick.

 2) The Parties have targeted December 31, 2012 as the date by which they wish to have negotiated a Framework Agreement.

 PROCESS

 3) The Parties shall establish a Coordinating Committee comprised of representatives appointed by each of the Parties to oversee the work undertaken under this Umbrella Agreement. In particular, the Coordinating Committee shall:

 a) Identify the subject-matters that are to be addressed under a Framework Agreement, such as, but not limited to:

 i. Lands and Resources;
ii. Governance and Jurisdiction;
iii. Economy Development and Sustainability;
iv. Health;
v. Education; and
vi. Social and Cultural Development;

 b) Negotiate a tripartite agreement on consultation;

 c) Identify whether a sub-committee for any agreed to subject-matter should be established;

 d) Develop terms of reference and strategic work plans for itself and any proposed sub-committee;

 e) Propose interim agreements on issues of concern to the Parties and develop methods for their implementation;

 f) Coordinate, monitor and evaluate progress made on the work undertaken under this Umbrella Agreement;

 g) Ensure that its representatives report on an ongoing basis, and at least quarterly, to their respective principals on work progress; and

 Page 3 of 7

 h) Ensure that annual budgets, work plans and any reporting requirements related to funding agreements are completed and processed in a timely manner.

 4) Upon consideration of an annual work plan and the funding resources available, Canada and New Brunswick will cost-share funding under this Umbrella Agreement.

 STATUS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE UMBRELLA AGREEMENT

 5) Except for sections 5 to 14, this Umbrella Agreement and the work undertaken pursuant to this Umbrella Agreement do not create any legal obligations which are binding on the Parties unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Parties.

 6) This Umbrella Agreement and the work undertaken pursuant to this Umbrella Agreement shall:

 a) be on a “without prejudice” basis with respect to the legal rights or positions of the Parties, including the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick;

 b) be deemed not to create, define, alter or affect the legal rights or positions of the Parties, including the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick;

 c) not be construed to be, or deemed to be, consultation for the purpose of justification by Canada or New Brunswick for the infringement of any Aboriginal or Treaty rights of the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick; and

 d) not preclude any other discussion or initiative between:

 i. the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick, or individual Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik First Nations and New Brunswick, or

 ii. the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick, or individual Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik First Nations and Canada on matters of mutual concern.

 7) Except for the purpose of enforcing sections 5 to 14 or unless otherwise agreed in writing the Parties undertake not to tender or seek admission of this Umbrella Agreement or the content of meetings, discussions, negotiations, documents generated or positions taken in or during the process contemplated hereunder as evidence in a court of law or before any administrative or regulatory tribunal or board. This undertaking shall survive the termination of this Umbrella Agreement unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Parties.

 8)8) Notwithstanding any other provision of the Umbrella Agreement, any Party may refer to publicly and may lead evidence regarding the Parties, date of operation, existence and purpose of this Umbrella Agreement and the frequency of and participants in meetings held pursuant to its operation before a court, regulatory tribunal, board or similar body.

 Page 4 of 7

 9) This Umbrella Agreement shall come into force and effect on the date of its signatures by Canada, New Brunswick, and the First Nations’ Chiefs in New Brunswick provided:

 a) A majority of the First Nation Chiefs in New Brunswick execute this Umbrella Agreement; and

 b) The Chiefs who execute this Umbrella Agreement are leaders of those First Nations whose members constitute at least fifty per cent plus one person (50% + 1) of the federally registered Indian population in New Brunswick.

 10) Any New Brunswick Mi’gmag or Wolastoqiyik First Nation, as represented by its respective Chief, may upon three months written notice to all the Parties, hereto join, withdraw, or rejoin this Umbrella Agreement.

 11) If one or more of the Mi’gmag or Wolastoqiyik First Nation(s), as represented by the respective Chief(s), decides to withdraw from this Umbrella Agreement pursuant to section 10, this Umbrella Agreement shall not automatically terminate.

 12) If, at any time, the First Nation Parties to this Umbrella Agreement fall below the majority of Chiefs or the majority consists of Chiefs representing less than fifty per cent plus one person (50% + 1) of the federally registered Indian population in New Brunswick, the Parties will consider whether to terminate this Umbrella Agreement.

 13) Notwithstanding section 12, Canada or New Brunswick may withdraw or rejoin this Umbrella Agreement upon three months written notice to all the Parties.

 14) Notwithstanding sections 10 to 13, the agreements, understandings, undertakings and commitments set out in sections 5 to 9 all continue in effect unless the Parties otherwise agree in writing.

 Page 5 of 7

 Signed at _______________, New Brunswick, the _______day of ___________, 2011.
Representing the Mi’gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick

I am told that the last two pages are just the signature pages. A special thank you to my friends, family and colleagues in NB First Nation who help keep me informed on what is happening back home. It is hard being so far from home, but you all make it easier.

Hope this helps. Please e-mail if you have any more questions.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ontario's Invisible People - Where are Aboriginal Issues in the Ontario Election?

So in case you didn't know, the Ontario provincial election is happening in 4 weeks on Thursday, October 6, 2011. There is lots of election activity happening in Ontario and lots of confusing political messages and attack ads on tv. Elections can be very confusing, especially to our younger population who may be voting for the first time.

http://www.electionalmanac.com/canada/ontario/

The contenders for the top spot of Premier are: (1) Progressive Conservative Party's Tim Hudak; (2) New Democrat Party's Andrea Horwath; (3) Green Party's Mike Schreiner; and (4) Liberal Party's Dalton McGuinty. McGuinty is the current incumbent (i.e., he is currently in the position of Premier and hoping to be re-elected).

You are entitled to vote in this upcoming election if: (1) you are at least 18 years old, (2) a Canadian citizen, (3) you reside in an electoral district and (4) have not already voted. This means that for those Aboriginal people in Ontario who want to, you can vote in this election.

http://wemakevotingeasy.ca/en/who-can-vote.aspx

However, if you do vote, I STRONGLY suggest that you read the election platforms (i.e., promises made by politicians about what they will do if elected) of each party beforehand. It is not because I believe that most contenders will fulfill all their election promises, but if they are not making ANY promises in relation to key issues that concern you, then this should act as a major red flag.

As a Mi'kmaw woman who now lives in Ontario, my primary concern is for the First Nations living in Ontario and how their views, concerns, needs, rights and interests will be addressed by each party. I don't vote in elections, so I won't be voting, but I participate in other ways, like helping to inform others about who and what they are voting for - if they do.

It is for this reason that I have gone through all of the election platforms, including the Liberal Plan which was just released today. The first thing that struck me was that not a SINGLE plan mentioned Aboriginal peoples at all. There was no mention of First Nations, M├ętis, Inuit, or their rights, interests or needs. The solitary reference to Aboriginal peoples was in the Conservative's tough on crime section of their platform where they made a reference to "illegal" activity on reserves.

Tim Hudak and the Conservative Party of Ontario's election platform is called the "Changebook" and can be found here:

http://www.ontariopc.com/changebook/

Andrea Horwath and the NDP's election platform is called "The Plan for Affordable Change" and can be found at this link:

http://ontariondp.com/en/policy

Mike Schreiner and the Green Party's election platform is called: "It's Time: A five point plan for Ontario's future" and can be viewed here:

http://www.gpo.ca/sites/gpo.ca/files/gpo_platform_2011.pdf

Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party's plan was just released today and is called: "Forward Together" and can be accessed at this link:

http://www.ontarioliberal.ca/OurPlan/pdf/platform_english.pdf

In all of the platforms, there are lots of nice pictures of happy white people riding bikes, taking strolls in the forest, holding hands, or working hard mining, farming, or assembling vehicles. All of the contenders for Premier themselves are all white people. There is not a single picture of a First Nation community, celebration or leader in all of these platforms. It is like we do not exist in Ontario.

The province of Ontario has the LARGEST population of Aboriginal peoples of all the other provinces and territories. There are almost 300,000 Aboriginal people living in Ontario, which means that 21% of all Aboriginal people live in Ontario. Even more astounding is that 80% of the Aboriginal population living in Ontario lives OFF-RESERVE. There are also 133 First Nations within Ontario, making it the province with the second highest number of First Nations after British Columbia.

http://www.aboriginalaffairs.gov.on.ca/english/services/datasheets/aboriginal.asp

So why have we become invisible to Ontarians? Is Pikangikum's child suicide crisis not visible enough?

http://netnewsledger.com/2011/09/01/pikangikum-first-nation-faces-suicide-epidemic/

Or what about Attawapiskat's deplorable school conditions?

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/dec10/attawapiskat.asp

Or how about the long, unresolved land claims in Six Nations?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/caledonia-landclaim/

I am sure that most people remember the senseless murder of Dudley George at Ipperwash:

http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/ipperwash/report/vol_4/pdf/E_Vol_4_Full.pdf

What about the First Nations that live in the Ring of Fire and their Aboriginal and treaty rights?

http://www.northernontariobusiness.com/Industry-News/mining/First-Nation-pushes-back-against--Ring-of-Fire--mine,-rail-project-510.aspx

I could literally go on and on about the numerous Aboriginal issues and concerns in Ontario, but that is not the purpose of this blog. My point is to highlight that our issues have been completely ignored in this election. The only party that took any notice of First Nations was the Conservative Party, but not in a good way. True to right-wing form, they only mention First Nations is in the crime section of their platform. (see page 33)

There, the First Nation traditional tobacco growing, manufacturing, and trading activities are characterized as "illegal",  "criminal", and "dangerous" because it is run by "organized crime that uses it to fund their drug and weapons trades". The Conservatives racist attack on First Nations is bolstered by their view that "honest businesses who are robbed of revenue, and every Ontario family, as we lose at least $500 million each year in tax revenue."

We, as First Nations people are invisible when we are dying of starvation, our children kill themselves at alarming rates or our schools are condemned. However, if there is even the most remote chance that we might be able to benefit from using OUR land or OUR resources, then they crack down with all their police, military, and legislative might to ensure that we stay where we belong: living in extreme poverty on reserves out of the hearts and minds of "honest", "hard-working" Canadians.

Even the Liberal platform, which labels Dalton McGuinty as the "Education Premier" brags for pages about the education levels and achievements of Ontario residents. Sure, Ontario can boast about 85% graduation rates, 75% of students exceeding provincial testing standards, and how they have invested $4 billion in new classrooms, libraries, buildings and labs.

I guess it would not look very good for the Liberals to talk about Aboriginal education statistics. They will fall back on the jurisdictional argument that Aboriginal people are federal jurisdiction. Well, in fact, as the province knows very well, the only Aboriginal group that is definitively federal jurisdiction is First Nations living on reserve. Given that 80% of Aboriginal live OFF-RESERVE, this means that Ontario has at least some role to play in ensuring that EVERYONE who lives in Ontario has access to all these wonderful educational benefits.

None of these candidates deserve our vote, but they do deserve to called on their lack of honesty and failure to stand up for EVERYONE who lives in Ontario. Speak up and call them on it.

I know I will!