Trudeau cloaks continued attack on First Nations sovereignty with charm

A ‘Canadian definition’ of the UNDRIP aims to extinguish 8th Fire

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“8TH Fire draws from an Anishinaabe prophecy that declares now is the time for Aboriginal peoples and the settler community to come together and build the ‘8TH Fire’ of justice and harmony.” – CBC website for the television show 8TH Fire

The Anishinaabe prophecy of the 8th Fire, popularized by a 2012 CBC four-part television miniseries hosted by Wab Kinew, was a beginner’s course on the dark colonial origins of the country of Canada based upon the unjust treatment of First Nations. The TV series was intended to portray a hopeful change in the historic relationship between First Nations and Canadians based upon the prophecy of the 8th Fire, a time of reconciliation.

For the last 21 years the federal “self-government” policy has set out Canada’s negotiating position with all First Nations. It gives all provinces a veto in any negotiations with First Nations on subject matters that affect provincial jurisdiction or laws.

Another dangerous feature of the federal “self-government” policy is that Canada intends to keep for itself all of the real powers of sovereignty and nationhood necessary for sustaining an economy, trade and diplomatic relations with other nations in the world. These are not on the table for negotiations with First Nations. There is no real power sharing contemplated in the federal self -government negotiation process. The only role that Aboriginal groups or “bands” would have under the self-government agreements are “delegated authority” under various federal (and provincial) subject areas. The policy also requires that Aboriginal groups or “bands” raise their “own source revenues,” which is Ottawa’s code for taxation or forms of taxation.

This is the policy that many bands are currently negotiating under to get out of the Indian Act — essentially they are converting into a municipal-type government. MORE

 

Province, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announce reconciliation

A potlatch feast will be held in March by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to discuss with clans.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs lead a march in mid-January down Smithers Main Street in opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Work on reconciliation is moving ahead between the Province and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

A media release late Thursday afternoon reads that a bahtlats (potlatch or feast) will be hosted by the hereditary chiefs in March to share information and initiate discussion with the Wet’suwet’en clans and house groups.

The ultimate goal is for B.C. to affirm Wet’suwet’en rights and title.

While the release stresses the effort is not about any one project, it comes as legal action against and resistance to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is still in full force, with the company moving forward on construction of a work camp south of Houston and the Unist’ot’en camp of the Wet’suwet’en Dark House accusing the company of activity going beyond an interim injunction and agreement with the RCMP. MORE

Inuit leader says Trudeau government’s new language bill imposes a ‘colonial’ system

File photo of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed in November 2017 in Ottawa. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The national Inuit organization in Canada says the Trudeau government’s new Indigenous languages bill has failed to address Inuit rights.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) expressed “disappointment” Tuesday in Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s new legislation, Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, calling it a “symbolic gesture.”

The statement has put ITK at odds with both Ottawa and another major Indigenous organization, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), which welcomed the tabling in Parliament of the bill and said it “deserves the support of all Parliamentarians and all Canadians.”

Inuit Express Disappointment With National Indigenous Languages Bill

Inuit express disappointment with national Indigenous languages bill and lament the missed opportunity to end discriminatory language policies in Canada

February 5, 2019, Ottawa, ON – The national indigenous languages bill that was introduced by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in the House of Commons today is a symbolic gesture that does not address Inuit rights to speak our language, nor does it include provisions that are necessary to support its revitalization, maintenance, and promotion.

“Despite being characterized as a reconciliation and co-development initiative, the Government of Canada engaged Inuit in bad faith throughout this legislative initiative,” said Natan Obed, president of ITK. “The absence of any Inuit-specific content suggests this bill is yet another legislative initiative developed behind closed doors by a colonial system and then imposed on Inuit.”

Eighty four percent of Inuit within the 51 communities that make up Inuit Nunangat report the ability to speak our language – Inuktut – making it the most resilient indigenous language spoken in Canada. Inuktut has official language status in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and is an official language of the Nunatsiavut Government, whose jurisdiction encompasses northern Labrador.

ITK initially welcomed this legislative initiative when it was launched in July 2017 as an opportunity to build on existing rights for Inuktut and to close the longstanding legislative gap that enables continued discrimination against Inuktut speakers.

“Our efforts to revitalize, maintain, and promote Inuktut are often blunted by inequitable federal funding policies that task us with doing much more with far fewer resources than what French and English speakers receive,” said Natan Obed. “At the same time, our people do not have the right to access federal services in Inuktut, relegating it to a status beneath English and French,” he said. MORE

A rift over indigenous representation in Canada is creating winners and losers


Protesters arrive in support of the Unist’ot’en camp and Wet’suwet’en First Nation in Houston, B.C., on Jan. 9. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press, via AP)

Canadian governments tend to talk to the indigenous governments recognized by the Indian Act, which, since 1876, has required any “body of Indians” holding claim or trust to organize themselves through elected councils. Though politicians claim to find the Victorian paternalism of the Indian Act distasteful, the notion that aboriginal governments should conduct themselves democratically seemed among its least contentious provisions. Yet a recent jurisdictional struggle highlights the degree to which even that assumption can no longer be taken for granted.

The council of the Wet’suwet’en Nation has authorized construction of a natural gas pipeline through their claimed territory, but the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have not. Forces loyal to the chiefs set up blockades and earlier this month mobilized outrage among indigenous Canadians and the Canadian left. The notion that elected aboriginal councils are colonial impositions at odds with “traditional governance structures” like hereditary monarchies has burst into the mainstream. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who theoretically backs natural resource development but also vows to make aboriginal “reconciliation” the hallmark of his tenure, has conceded to indigenous nations that “it’s not for the federal government to decide who speaks for you.”

Yet if the federal and provincial governments (to say nothing of private industry) are going to have any useful relationship with the true owners of British Columbia, at some point someone, somewhere, has to give the question of “who speaks for the aboriginals” a definitive answer. In some corners, even framing the question elicits offense. Canada’s First Nations are collectivist and egalitarian, they say, meaning community consent may emerge slowly, through gradual consensus between leaders and people. MORE

Judy Wilson’s Message for Canadians: ‘The Land Defenders Are Doing This for Everybody’

RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory can’t bring justice, reconciliation or a better future, Neskonlith chief says.

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Chief Judy Wilson: ‘We have to change to ensure that our young people have a future. That’s what the Indigenous land defenders are talking about when they say we need to protect the land and the water.’ Photo by Zoë Ducklow.

What are your thoughts on how governments are responding to the RCMP action in the Wet’suwet’en territory?

I was just reading Premier [John] Horgan’s response to the Unist’ot’en, and I think he was trying to stay on the middle ground. He mentioned the bands who signed these agreements [to allow the pipeline], but to me, the issue is clearly about the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs. They are the proper titleholders to their unceded territory, and they already made a decision. They said no pipelines in their territory.

The Unist’ot’en stand-off: How Canada’s “prove-it” mentality undermines reconciliation

Wet'suwet'en Solidarity rally in Vancouver, Jan. 2019 (Photo: Eugene Kung)

…It is certainly true that, where an Indigenous nation brings a title claim in court, the court will expect that nation to prove its claim. The procedural double standard in this approach has been pointed out by observers such as Professor John Borrows, who rhetorically asks: “Why should the Aboriginal group bear the burden of reconciliation by proving its occupation of land? After all, the Crown is the subsequent claimant. Why should the Crown not have to prove its land claims?” Nonetheless it is obvious that Canadian courts accept Crown title based, as Professor Borrows puts it, on “bare words,” while expecting Indigenous nations to prove their claim to pre-existing Aboriginal title.

Aboriginal rights are inherent – not granted by Canadian law

What the RCMP statement does not address, however, and what is often overlooked in the “prove-it” approach, is that Aboriginal title and governance exist and apply in Canadian law now, even if the bounds of title lands have not been delineated in a court case.

Peter Grant, a lawyer for the Wet’suwet’en, summarized this well in his recent response to the RCMP’s media statement: “it’s not that title doesn’t exist pre-declaration, it’s that the government is refusing to recognize title before a court declaration.” MORE

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Canada Chooses Oil Over People (Again)

The confrontations with the Wet’suwet’en Nation show the Federal Government isn’t interested in real reconciliation


Photo Maggie McCutchen

The relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples continues to be one of reconciliation only when it serves federal interests…

The nearby ecosystem, as well as the 20 First Nations surrounding the pipeline will constantly be at risk of pollution and environmental destruction from normal use and from accidents, but that’s not all.

The aggression shown by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrates just how hypocritical Canadians are when people brag about Canada’s human rights record. While we uplift this idea that we are everyone’s “friendly and progressive neighbors to the north”, it is finally becoming increasingly clear that it is a very selective kind of progressivism. The kind that inexplicably still does not extend to the peoples that have lived on this land for centuries longer than the oldest of colonizers. MORE

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‘No consent, no pipeline’: UBCIC President says Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been ignored

 

Trespassing on Treaty Rights: Saskatchewan’s Proposed Restrictions on Access

The Crown’s failure to honour the promises it made to Indigenous Peoples pursuant to the historic treaties is one of the most significant barriers to reconciliation today. This was recently made clear when the Province of Saskatchewan introduced amendments to provincial trespassing laws which would impose new limits on Indigenous Peoples’ treaty right to hunt.

Serious questions have already been raised as to whether the new legislation violates Indigenous Peoples’ constitutionally-protected treaty rights. Just as critically, if enacted the amendments will contribute to misunderstandings regarding the nature of Indigenous Peoples’ treaty right to hunt and increase the potential for further conflict. More