DEFENDING OUR SOVEREIGNTY

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's World Domination Plot...errr Platform

As I watched the Republican convention last night, for just a moment, I thought I was watching an episode of Pinky and The Brain. Remember that kids show, two genetically-altered lab mice who plot to take over the world each night and ultimately fail? Mitt Romney's speech, although more empassioned than his usual robotic-millionaire self, was just a tad frightening.


Mitt Romney (aka The Brain) and his running mate, Paul Ryan (aka Pinky), are hoping that Americans buy into their bid for the top job as leaders of the United States of America (i.e., take over the world). Their plan is eerily familiar somehow.... can't quite place it, but sounds an awful lot like a modern version of terra nullius and imperialism 101.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/30/transcript-mitt-romney-speech-at-rnc/

First of all, Romney opens his speech with a very telling line: "We're a nation of immigrants." True, they are all immigrants. However, they are not a nation - they are a state which is located in and among many Nations - Indigenous Nations. To say that the USA is a nation of immigrants treats the original peoples as though they don't exist. This is how the colonizers justified the theft of Indigenous lands, because they were terra nullius - "land belonging to no one", or in other words, no humans were inhabiting a piece of land, so it was free for the taking.

Romney also goes on to state "We're the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life. The driven ones." Oh, they're the driven ones alright - there wasn't anything they were not willing to do to acquire Indigenous lands and resources - from scalpings, mass murders, forced relocations, residential schools, to forced sterilizations. But all of that was justified. Why? Because they came in the pursuit of freedom - "freedom to build a business with their own hands".

In America, they don't apologize for success". In fact, according to Romney's view of the world, "it's the genius of the American free enterprise system" that has created America as it looks today. Of course, you have to sort of ignore that Indigenous peoples exist, that there are huge societal inequities between men and women, Black and white people, gay and straight, and rich and poor. But that's ok because according to Romney, his empire... err America, will not "mention their race, their party affiliation or what they did for a living".

Nevermind that this same "genius" free enterprise system is killing our oceans, lands and skies. For every imperialist, there is always an arch nemesis who threatens to foil the world domination plan. For The Brain, it was usually Pinky's lower IQ that foiled his plans. For Romney, President Obama is the arch nemesis because of his ludicrous non-genius ideas. Obama wants to slow the rise of the oceans... HAHAHAHAHAHA... and he wants to try to heal the planet... BAHAHAHAHAHA! How ridiculous! Obama will never take over the world that way. No, Obama should have a genius world domination plot like Romney which will make the already privileged individuals who vote for him much, much richer.

But, as with all good world domination plots, one can't build an empire without the requisite propaganda which justifies the invasion... err... freedom campaign. The formula for this is simple: "free other nations from dictators", show other countries "less flexibility and more backbone", and create a "free world" by imposing...err... promoting "America"s Democratic ideals". In fact, Romney's America "will preserve a military that's so strong no nation will ever dare test it"! No one will ever touch "our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear and renewables"!

Ok, so that speech is scary! Romney says it's "time to put aside the divisiveness" and try to create a world where "everyone else on the block is doing the same thing". Nevermind trying to thrive in your cultures and traditions as Indigenous Nations or protect our delicate ecosystems for future generations. No, if American's elect Romney, their world domination tour will no doubt start with us and our oil, our gas, our water and our natural resources. All the more reason to stop the pipelines now.


Lieutenant Ryan:
Gee Romney, what do you want to do tonight?

Emperor Romney:
The same thing we do every night Ryan, try to take over the world!

*Images used from Google Images.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harder Politics When No Skin in the Game: Time to Address Racism

Is it just me, or is there something about this unusually hot summer that has scrambled the brains of business owners, community groups and politicians? It seems to me that in the last few weeks, I have received no end of e-mails and messages on social media from concerned Indigenous peoples from all over Canada. What is their concern? It's the fact that in the year 2012, we STILL have Canadians who believe it is acceptable to profit from or completely ignore the blatant racism being perpetrated against Indigenous peoples.

Eska Water:

Perhaps it is just the heat because last year around this time, I wrote a blog about the discriminatory advertising being used by Eska Water. Their commercial for "pure" water included three men who were a mish-mash of stereotypes depicting Indigenous peoples. When confronted with the racist commercial, a spokesperson defended the company by saying "the depiction was a generic one of native people and not meant to represent any specific group". What???

http://indigenousnationhood.blogspot.ca/2011/07/eskan-racism-bottled-and-sourced-in.html

The depiction was indeed a racist depiction of Indigenous peoples and they did in fact, mean to represent a specific group of people - Indigenous peoples. The fact that none of their non-Indigenous test group identified any problems and in fact offered positive comments about the ad, shows a much deeper problem. Racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada is so ingrained that some in society can't even identify it when they see it. It is so ingrained in fact, that no one in the company thought to include any Indigenous peoples in the consumer test group.

Recommendations:

(1) Companies should include  a broad cross-section of society in consumer focus groups (this includes Indigenous peoples).

(2) Companies should use the multitude of resources available related to human rights, diversity and inclusion to prevent harmful situations of racism and discrimination.

Royal Canadian Legion:

Less than two weeks ago, it was reported that the Royal Canada Legion in Cranbrook, BC had published a newsletter which included a racist joke about Indigenous peoples. This "joke" was not your usual combo of insulting stereotypes, this one had a hateful undertone which mocked the killing of Indigenous peoples with impunity.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/08/16/calgary-cranbrook-newsletter-pulled-joke.html

The response was that the joke "only offended one person" and that it was meant to "get a laugh". I can't imagine a time when a racist joke would be funny, but in no stretch of the imagination is the murder of an Indigenous person funny. Many of our Indigenous peoples lost their lives fighting alongside Canadian soldiers in war. On average, 40% of Indigenous children who entered residential schools never came out alive. Starlight Tours have resulted in countless deaths of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples die pre-mature deaths everyday from conditions of extreme poverty caused by chronic underfunding of essential social services like food, water and housing. This is no joke.

Simply removing the joke from the newsletter without a sincere apology and commitment to do better does little to educate their legion members about racism, discrimination and how it impacts all their members. I doubt it did much to make amends for the shock, insult and hurt most likely felt by the Indigenous members of the Legion, as well as other non-Indigenous Legion members who care deeply about the human rights of all members of society.

Recommendations:

(1) When an organization makes a mistake which hurts 1 person, 3 people or a 1000 people, own up to it, apologize, make amends, and take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

(2) Any organization can use this kind of situation as a learning opportunity to educate its members about discrimination, what it is, how it can occur, the harm it does and most importantly, how to prevent it altogether.

Holy Chuck:

Last week, I was again contacted by my social media contacts, this time about a restaurant in Toronto that allegedly used racist language in their burger menu. When I was sent a copy of the menu and read that one item was called the "Dirty Drunken Half Breed", I honestly thought it was a bad joke (as in it wasn't a real menu item). I went online and checked it out and it was indeed an actual menu item.

http://aptn.ca/pages/news/2012/08/28/toronto-restaurant-scalded-after-using-slur-for-burger-name/

I personally found it hard to believe that anyone in Canada would NOT know that this type of language is both racist and discriminatory. In my opinion, the response from the restaurant was equally offensive. Here are some excerpts from their Twitter response which went from apologetic to angry and defensive:

"We at Holy Chuck r truly sorry to anyone who was offended by our burger TDDHB. It has been removed..."

"I can see why people are offended. We'll chng name"

"Our menu at HC is meant to be entertaining & funny!"

"Once again I am sorry but I've never heard of the Metis people!"

"Totally blown out of proportion"

"Enough's enough! ... there's nothing more we can do"

"I'm done tweeting & there's nothing else to b said! I'm on Vacation & I plan on enjoying the rest of it! Beach and Pina colada's await!"

After reading this series of emails, would anyone consider Holy Chuck's apology to be sincere? It sounds more to me like the apology was an attempt to shake off the issue so the owner could get back to his/her drinks. No sincere apology ever starts with the words "I'm sorry but..." - that is merely a means of deflecting responsibility. Discrimination is not about the alleged intent of the perpetrator, it is about actual impact on the person offended.

It would have taken literally 2 seconds on the Internet to find numerous definitions for the word "half breed" had the business cared as much about its customers as it did its profits. Definitions of the word "half breed" include: a disparaging and offensive word for the offspring of parents of different racial origin, especially the offspring of an American Indian and a white person of European heritage; or an offensive word for a person of mixed racial descent, especially a person of Native American and white parentage. Adding the words "dirty" and "drunken" to the mix makes it even more offensive.

Trying to deny responsibility by claiming ignorance to the existence of Metis people in Canada can hardly be said to be an apology, but rather acts as further insult.

Recommendations:

(1) Anyone operating a business that provides a service of any kind to the public must know who their serving - the population of Toronto is made up of many different groups, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit - take the time to learn about them.

(2) Business owners can avoid acts of discrimination by making themselves aware of human rights laws in their particular province, as well as any potentially applicable federal human rights laws.

Nepean Redskins:

The most recent issue of discrimination that has been brought to my attention is one that still has not been resolved. Ian Campeau, otherwise known as Dee Jay NDN from the music group, A Tribe Called Red, has, for some time now, been trying to work amicably with the youth football team called Nepean Redskins to help them change their name.

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/08/27/nepean-redskins-name-sparks-war-of-words

Instead, the responses from the local city councillor and the team has been anything but apologetic or helpful. The football club's President has been silent on the issue, although he was quoted last year as saying that they "don't use the name in a racist way". The city councillor, Jan Harder, said that "there is nothing wrong with the name" and that the issue has "nothing to do with her". What a bizarre series of statements to make.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/Names+matter+Minor+football+organization+should+change/7152812/story.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

First of all, when I used 3 seconds to look up the meaning of the word "redskin", this is what I found:

- an offensive and disparaging word used to describe North American Indians;

- offensive slang and disparaging term for Native American;

- dated and offensive term for American Indian;

- offensive term for Native Americans like "red man" and "injun".

I don't think there is any doubt that the term is offensive. But the word has far more meaning that just being a racist insult. Colonizers used to scalp Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. In some areas of Canada, there were bounties on the scalps of Mi'kmaw men, women and children which decimated our Nation by up to 80%. The fact that American soldiers would sometimes skin an entire Indigenous person is horrific and a stark reminder of the genocide committed against Indigenous peoples in all its forms.

How the Nepean Redskins team President, Stephen Dean, could say that the team does not use the name in a racist way makes absolutely no sense when the name itself is racist. There is no neutral use of the term "redskin", unless you are talking about potatoes, and we all know that is not the case here. This shows an extremely deep level of ignorance. If we were to exchange any other racist name of another cultural group - there would be no question about the racist nature of it. The difference here is that its "just" Indigenous peoples we are offending, which appears to be very acceptable to some non-Indigenous people.

The further offensive appropriation of Indigenous symbology and likeness for a non-Indigenous football team is also offensive. But the most telling comments came from city councillor Jan Harder who said there is nothing wrong with the name and the issue has nothing to do with her. We've already established that there is a lot wrong with the name. But Harder has hit on an important point: she has no skin in the game, so to speak, so what's it to her? She is not Indigenous and she obviously knows or cares very little about the historical and ongoing discrimination against Indigenous peoples.

As city councillor, she has worked on finances, land development, environment and hydro. Why on earth would she want to know anything about Indigenous peoples? Never mind that all of those issues impact the lives of Indigenous peoples in significant and often destructive ways. Over 13,000 Aboriginal people live in Ottawa - I am quite sure that some even live in Councillor Harder's ward. Whether there is one Indigenous person who is offended or 1000, according to Canada's laws, she is obligated to act on behalf of all people in her district, not just her and "anyone else I know" that looks, acts, and thinks like her.

Personally, I would like to see Harder do her job and Dean stop hiding from the issue and deal with it. What else can Ian Campeau do? He has tried to deal with this amicably, he has offered to fundraise so that the team can transition to a new name and has contacted various people. By ignoring the issue, the team risks bad publicity, a human rights complaint, a boycott on their funders, and continued hurt amongst the Indigenous peoples in Ottawa and beyond.

Recommendations:

(1) The team could use this issue as an opportunity to get everyone in the community engaged and come up with a community-based strategy to transition from their current racist name to one that everyone can enjoy.

(2) The team should read the following letter from Leanne Simpson, who expresses with great insight and gentle compassion, why the team ought to change its name. Seriously take the time to consider her words:

http://leannesimpson.ca/2012/08/27/an-open-letter-to-the-nepean-redskins-the-national-capital-amateur-football-association/

Just in case you are not convinced, I invite the public to write, call or visit the councillor and team president to show them how much this impacts everyone who wants to live in a discrimination-free society.

City Councillor Jan Harder
Jan Harder
Councilor, Ward 3 Barrhaven
T - 613-580-2473
 F - 613-580-2513
jan.harder@ottawa.ca

President Stephen Dean
Nepean Redskins
613-825-1903
sdean@rogers.com

Ontario Human Rights Commission
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 900
Toronto, ON  M7A 2R9
416-597-4900
info@ohrc.on.ca

Also, here is a new petition started by Ian Campeau to have the name changed:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/changetheredskinname/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=button

*Full disclosure - I used to work at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission as an investigator of human rights complaints.







Friday, August 24, 2012

Land Wars 2: Attack of the Fringe

The right-wing fringe are in full-swing these days. From He-who-shall-not-be-named's racist, hateful tirades about First Nations on TV to the fringe right's fav policy institutes' lowly insults and name-calling of First Nation academics and activists on Twitter - they are working hard to spread their venom to a vulnerable public.

I say vulnerable, because a large segment of the Canadian public is uneducated about Indigenous issues. This means they are open to be persuaded by the well-funded, flashy right-wing propaganda that has infected much of the mainstream print and TV media.

What has got all the fringe right-wingers all a-buzz recently? It is the Harper government's plans to divide up reserve lands into individual parcels of land (fee simple). The idea comes from Tom Flanagan's book: Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights.

http://reviewcanada.ca/reviews/2010/04/01/opportunity-or-temptation/

As I wrote in my last blog, the act is to be called the First Nation Property Ownership Act (FNPOA) and has the potential to destroy First Nation communities, but is being promoted as the answer to our woes.

http://www.indigenousnationhood.blogspot.ca/2012/08/flanagan-national-petroleum-ownership.html

The person behind the idea, Tom Flanagan, who was also an advisor to PM Stephen Harper, now uses Manny Jules (head of First Nation Tax Commission) to do most of the public promotion of FNPOA. Why? Because Manny Jules is a First Nations man, who is the former chief of Kamloops First Nation and the idea is that it will be easier to sell assimilation to First Nations if a First Nations person does it.

http://fntc.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=7

The idea itself is not new. It's the same idea Flanagan promoted in his book First Nations? Second Thoughts, except in his first book, his overt racist depiction of First Nations didn't gain his ideas the support he had hoped. He has not given up on his idea to assimilate First Nations, he is just less overt about it now. In his mind, resistance to assimilation is futile.

http://walrusmagazine.com/articles/the-man-behind-stephen-harper-tom-flanagan/

His idea is copied from Hernando de Soto who has travelled the world trying to convince Indigenous peoples that endless riches can be found in giving up their communal lands in exchange for individual fee simple holdings. It appears from all the research to date that these communities are far worse off after they have divided up their communal lands. So, naturally, this sounds like a great plan for Harper.

In fact, some reports have shown that increasing the level of westernized legal concepts of property rights in communities with extreme poverty, "can actually lead to greater exploitation". Other reports note that the impact of De Soto's idea ranges from ineffectual to very "harmful". But, we have to get real about what this idea is all about. The plan is not to create super wealthy, powerful Indigenous communities - it is for the maximized economic benefit of the political and corporate power-brokers all over the world.

The very objective of this plan is to open up Indigenous communal lands for mortgaging, credit, loans, liens, seizures, taxation and for economic development in the form of mining and pipelines. This "unlocking" benefits banks, investment companies, the extractive industry and government - not Indigenous peoples. A few low-end labour jobs and a couple of education scholarships are the new beads and trinkets of today, especially when you consider that the corporate industry takes home trillions all over the world.

This proposed bill (FNPOA), like the many others being drafted, introduced and debated without First Nations' review or approval, is the core part of this assimilation plan. It will disperse First Nation communities faster than a police riot squad hose can disperse environmental protesters. Similar legislation has devastated Indigenous land holdings in the United States, some of them irrevocably. Canada's magic key (also known as the land claims negotiating policy) is that once Indigenous lands transfer to "third parties" for any reason, they are gone forever.

You will hear a great deal of media on this subject. The right-wing fringe literally drools at the thought of finally assimilating Indigenous peoples once and for all - more money, land and control for those who already have more than they need. They can't wait to impose their pipelines across any territories they wish. Instead of informed, educated, fact-based discussions, they have and will likely continue to engage in their usual name-calling, smearing, belittling and taunting of Indigenous academics, community members, leaders and activists.

We must keep in mind those Conservative right-wing fringe groups are the 1% mega-rich of settler societies who can buy and control just about anything - newspapers, TV stations, research, conferences, policy institutes, think tanks, economic institutions and politicians. They have large think tanks and private strategy meetings to discuss and implement their own plans. The closer we get to the truth about their activities, the more frantic and desperate will be their attacks. They will cowardly threaten, defame, ridicule and misinform - and it will be relentless.

On our side, we have our communities - who, for all the hardships, difficulties, tragedies and poverty, still have our identities, cultures, languages, beliefs, spiritualities, practices, traditions, laws, economies and governments. We are so much stronger than those who wish to assimilate us. Even in our suffering we find the strength to hold on to who we are, we defend our sovereignty, treaties, lands, waters and skies and we refuse to give up. Our Indigenous Nations have thrived here since time immemorial and we will thrive again. Our ancestors left us everything we need to guide us and protect our future generations.

We can do this. Don't get distracted by the noise and drama of the right-wing fringe groups who seek to profit on our suffering. Many of them only do so because their media ratings (i.e. salaries) and "online hit count makes it worthwhile". We have to focus on the issues before us, work together, help build each others' knowledge and capacity and empower one another. We all have skills we can use to help better our families, communities and Nations.

Make no mistake, this bill is a modern form of land war that will be waged on our Nations. I for one, will do everything in my power to stop this legislation. I will keep researching, publishing, speaking about it, answering questions and dispelling myths. I am often criticized for the volunteer work I do for First Nations. One prominent BC chief once said publicly that that "you get what you pay for with volunteers - they are worthless". I hold the opposite view.

I have a strong Mi'kmaw identity and attachment to my culture and Mi'kmaw Nation. I am blessed with a supportive extended family and strong, healthy children. I worked hard as a single mom to earn an education (four university degrees) and was lucky enough to find a good paying job. I am grateful to the Creator for my warm house (on traditional Indigenous territories) and access to healthy food and clean water. Coming from a situation where I lived on welfare with my two babies in a flooded, mouldy Aboriginal house which made my babies very sick - I appreciate what we have now.

None of this makes me any more or less Mi'kmaw, but it does highlight my responsibility to do the most that I can do for our peoples. I have certain blessings that put me in a position where I am obligated, according to Mi'kmaw ways of being, to give back and help build up the Mi'kmaw Nation and other Indigenous Nations and peoples in Canada. So I will continue my volunteer work - regardless of the threats, slander or attacks from the fringe who just can't comprehend our Indigenous collective loyalties to one another and our lands, waters and skies.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Flanagan National Petroleum Ownership Act: Stop Big Oil Land Grab

By now most of you have heard about the Harper government's intention to introduce legislation that will turn reserve lands into individual holdings called fee simple. The legislation has been referred to as the First Nation Property Ownership Act (FNPOA). Some media outlets have referred to it as "privatization" but what the legislation would really do is turn the collective ownership of reserve lands into small pieces of land owned by individuals who could then sell it to non-First Nations peoples, land-holding companies, and corporations, like Enbridge for example.

The idea is not a new one. Hernando de Soto has been trying to sell the same idea to Indigenous populations all over the world. The evidence seems to show that the Indigenous peoples are far worse off for it. Prior to de Soto's destructive world tour, the Indigenous Nations in the United States suffered the sting of fee simple legislation in the Dawes Act. Once the lands were given to individuals, the lands were subject to state laws. The same would happen in Canada where the lands would be subject to provincial instead of federal law.

The primary purpose of the Dawe's Act was to assimilate Indigenous peoples in the USA by breaking up their Indigenous governments. The legislation allowed the government to divide up communal lands into small parcels to be held by individuals. It has been described by historians as: "the culmination of American attempts to destroy tribes and their governments and to open Indian lands to settlement by non-Indians and to development by railroads" (Oklahoma Historical Society). In the Canadian context, similar legislation will open up "Indian lands" for big oil, gas and mineral extraction.

I have referred to FNPOA as the Flanagan National Petroleum Ownership Act for two reasons: (1) the name of the Act (FNPOA) comes from the book Tom Flanagan co-wrote (with Andre LeDressay and Chris Alcantara): "Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights" and (2) the Act will do more to open up reserve lands to oil, gas and mining companies than it will bring prosperity to First Nations.

For those who don't know, Tom Flanagan is a right-wing anti-First Nation academic who has written about and spoken out against First Nations in a very overtly racist and derogatory fashion, and often lacks a sound factual or academically-sound research basis.

Flanagan's book was fully endorsed by Manny Jules, a First Nation man and former chief of Kamloops Indian Band and is now the head of the First Nation Tax Commission (FNTC). The FNTC, contrary to its name, is actually a federal organization, whose chief commissioner is appointed by Canada's Governorin-Council and reports to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

http://appointments.gc.ca/prflOrg.asp?OrgID=FNN&type-typ=1&lang=eng

Aside from a salary of over $200,000, it is also notable that in the recent round of Conservative cuts to Aboriginal organizations, Jules' FNTC was protected from substantial cuts. The political and financial links between the FNTC and the federal government's intended legislation become apparent when one reads Flanagan's book in its entirety. Here is an excerpt from my published review of the book:

"In fact, the book concludes by affirming that 'there is little doubt that this proposal is a continuation of the First Nations–led initiatives of the 1990’s' ... And, if First Nations require any assistance in catching up to the modern world, the book suggests that they use the services of Le Dressay’s Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics. (Located in Jules’s home community of Kamloops, this centre was created out of a First Nations Tax Commission project he chaired.) It should come as no surprise that one of the keys to success of the authors’ proposal for the First Nations Property Ownership Act will be to create additional centralized institutions, to take over the new jurisdiction it also creates."

http://reviewcanada.ca/reviews/2010/04/01/opportunity-or-temptation/

The media will no doubt be publishing many editorials, opinions and commentaries on this issue in the coming weeks until the bill is introduced in Parliament. Many of these articles, especially those from the right-wing fringe will leave out a great deal of context, perpetuate the same myths that Manny Jules and Tom Flanagan do and will settle for the catchy headlines instead of help inform the public about the serious issues involved.

Here are some of the questions asked of me by the media and my answers in very brief form (more detailed answers will be provided in my forthcoming publication):

(1) First Nations hate the Indian Act, why would they object to Harper amending or repealing the Act?

The abolishment of the Indian Act was the central feature of the 1969 White Paper - the federal policy that would assimilate "Indians" once and for all. It is up to First Nations to decide when and how they want to amend or repeal the Indian Act - Canada has done enough damage under the guise of "what is good for the Indians".

Harper specifically promised at the co-called Crown-First Nation Gathering that: "To be sure, our Government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act". This legislation would be a significant and unilateral amendment to the Indian Act.

(2) But First Nations can't access mortgages or start businesses without owning land in fee simple?

That is simply not true. Individual band members have been working with their First Nations and the major banks to obtain mortgages to build homes on reserve for many years. Many band members and bands have also been able to receive loans from banks to start businesses without leveraging their homes. One must also remember that owning a home doesn't mean you can open a business on your land - there are zoning and other laws on reserve as there would be in any neighborhood.

(3) But Canadians get to own land in fee simple?

Canadians have the option to own land in fee simple only if they are wealthy enough to buy land or qualify for a mortgage. Thousands of First Nations people also own land in fee simple all over the country. Some First Nations people also hold land via Certificate of Possession on reserve which is very similar to fee simple, except that it can't be sold to non-First Nations people.

(4) But if First Nations could own land in fee simple, wouldn't that cure the housing crisis?

This ability to own land in fee simple has not cured homelessness in Canada and in fact, it is on the rise. The ability to hold reserve lands in fee simple would not qualify any individual for a mortgage. Part of getting a mortgage is being able to get insurance - who would insure a mold-infested, abestos-contaminated home without running water or sanitation services? This sounds like more of a cure for the economy and mortgage lenders than it does for First Nations.

(5) But commentators have said this would cure First Nation poverty?

The origins of the current crisis of poverty in First Nations are in the theft of our lands and resources, the genocide committed against our people, the federal strangulation of our governments and the refusal to properly recognize and provide space for our treaty, Aboriginal, and inherent rights and laws. Fee simple has nothing to do with it. There is absolutely no evidence that fee simple ownership has cured poverty. In fact, the studies have shown that the chronic underfunding of essential social services by the federal government is the primary cause of the current levels of poverty in First Nations.

http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/crsp/article/view/35220

(6) But Manny Jules and 8 other First Nations want this legislation?

With all due respect, Manny Jules heads a federal government organization - he is not a First Nation leader or community spokesperson. If there are a handful of First Nations who truly want to divide their reserves into individual parcels of fee simple lands, they can do so via current processes under the Indian Act or self-government negotiations for example. There is no way that 8 First Nations should set national law or policy for 633 First Nations. Treaty implementation and the resolution of land claims are far more critical to First Nation well-being.

http://www.bctreaty.net/unfinishedbusiness/pdf-documents/BC-Treaty-Commission-PricewaterhouseCoopers-Report.pdf

(7) But isn't the legislation optional? What's the harm?

With INAC, even optional laws and policies are never truly optional. Once the government decides it wants First Nations to behave in a certain way, they use a series of financial and political incentives and punishments to ensure First Nations act as the government deems appropriate. With THIS Harper government, the focus would be more on punishments and they would be severe for failing to conform. For example, First Nations could voluntarily enter into Act XYZ or fail to receive funding associated with that program or service.

Plus, the element of volunteerism does not apply in a situation of duress. Is it truly optional to sell one's land if one is already impoverished and suffering from a lack the basic necessities of life? Even Manny Jules admitted that one of the challenges of this bill is that all reserve land could be lost:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/ID/2189503699/

Jules wants First Nations people to prove to banks that they are "worthy" of owning a home. WOW!

(8) What are your other concerns related to FNPOA?

- Canada does not have the legal authority to pass such a bill in violation of both Aboriginal and treaty rights, the Royal Proclamation, and UNDRIP;

- they haven't thought about the legal, political, social or cultural implications of such a law (for example - exactly who would get the fee simple parcels of land?);

- Canada has not learned from history - the Dawes Act devastated First Nations in the USA - why would it be better here;

- this is Harper's political agenda to once and for all assimilate Indians and turn reserve lands into provincial land holdings and jurisdiction;

- this bill would also help Harper end-run the duty to consult and accommodate re oil, gas and mining on our lands, undermine our leadership and empower corporations like Enbridge to lay their pipes wherever they want;

- turning reserves into fee simple parcels registered in provincial land registries under provincial law would enable easier expropriation of our lands for big oil and gas companies like Enbridge;

- FNPOA, together with other bills in process: Bill C-428 impacting by-laws, estates & education, Bill S-6 re elections, Bill S-2 re matrimonial real property, Bill C-27 re First Nation accountability, Bill S-8 re First Nation water, and the First Nation Education Act to come essentially change the entire legal and political landscape for First Nations - unilaterally and against our collective will.

First Nations have the right to free, informed and prior consent to any laws, policies, decisions or actions that impact our lands and resources. This means that if we don't want Enbridge or any other extractive industry on our lands - that is our decision to make. Our people will not allow big oil to use FNPOA as a land grab to circumvent our rights.

There is simply nothing good about this bill and much to be lost from it. People need to stop coming up with ideas about how to "fix" us as we always end up worse off for it.

Canadians are not required to understand or even support our inherent, treaty, domestic and international rights - they just have to accept that this is the law, not unlike any of the laws they cherish.

Canada needs to stop trying to assimilate us and instead focus on fulfilling its legal and treaty obligations instead of trying to find ways around them. I think we have suffered enough - let us go about the hard job of healing and rebuilding our Nations and enjoy our fair share of what is ours.

Additional resources:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/ID/2173712911/

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/ID/2189503699/

http://soundcloud.com/el-chaos/pamela-palmater-reserve-vs-fee-simple-land