“Canada is not a country that follows the rule of law. Canada makes and breaks laws to suit its own economic and political interests, which run counter to those of Indigenous peoples. It is time to be honest about it, and call out Canada as an outlaw, and take action to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who have occupied their lands since time immemorial.” – Prof Pam Palmater
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes flowery public speeches about respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and reassures the international community that there is no relationship more important that the one with Indigenous peoples, Canada invaded sovereign Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. When questioned about this aggressive move at a Liberal fundraiser in Kamloops, British Columbia, he responded: “No, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation… But at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.”
Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory through its national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is an example of the blatant violation of the rule of law in favour of corporate interests. Canada has consistently failed to follow the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous peoples, and the violent arrests of the Wet’suwet’en people at the Gidimt’en checkpoint, set up in support of the Unist’ot’en homestead, is a glaring example of Canada’s lawlessness.
The people of Wet’suwet’en Nation, as represented by their traditional government, have long asserted their sovereign jurisdiction over their Nation’s lands which span about 22,000 square kilometres in northwest British Columbia. These lands have never been ceded, nor have their rights to use, manage, protect or govern these lands been extinguished in any way. The Nation has never signed any treaty or constitutional agreement that has specifically surrendered their sovereignty as a Nation. While there have been many federal and provincial laws that have interfered with First Nation laws in general, there has never been an explicit extinguishment of Wet’suwet’en laws and jurisdiction over their Nation’s sovereign territory. Their land rights are not only recognized in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, but they are also protected in numerous international treaties and declarations, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In other words, there was no legal basis for Canada to invade their territory. MORE
This warning by Russ Diabo posted in Ricochet, July, 2015 is even more timely today.
For the past several weeks, I have observed with increasing frequency a call for First Peoples to get out for the upcoming federal election. The mainstream media and now the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, are urging Indigenous people to vote, particularly since it is looking like a three-way race between the federal leaders and their parties (sorry, Elizabeth May).
…I took particular notice of an opinion piece by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post. Kheiriddin was responding to Regina Crowchild, a councillor with Alberta’s Tsuu T’ina Nation, who said that she would not want to see “an alien government’s polling station” on her reserve, adding that “if we join Canada in their election system, that’s a part of genocide.”
Here was Kheiriddin’s counterargument:
The reality is that, paradoxically, if First Nations are truly interested in more autonomy, they will never get it without cooperation from the federal government. That means electing a government that is sympathetic to their perspective — and they will never do so unless they go to the polls. Voting is not capitulation, but a recognition that in a democracy, you need to participate if you want your voice to be heard.
Despite the mainstream media’s pleas, we must remember as First Nation individuals we are connected to our families, communities and nations. Therefore we have collective or group rights, which Canadian citizens — whether founding settlers or recent immigrants — cannot claim.
In fact, Canada (including the Supreme Court of Canada) bases its asserted sovereignty and territorial integrity on the racist, colonial Christian doctrine of discovery. Kheiriddin’s argument makes sense only if Indigenous peoples already consider themselves as “Canadians.” MORE
Former PCO clerk Michael Wernick warned that the former justice minister’s directive could ‘gutted at the stroke of a pen.’
Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, issued formal guidelines for lawyers defending the government against lawsuits from First Nations before she was shuffled out of the Justice minister role in January; new Justice Minister David Lametti, Conservative Justice critic Lisa Raitt, and deputy NDP justice critic Murray Rankin have all endorsed those guidelines. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade
Attorney General David Lametti and the opposition justice critics say they will stand behind former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s instructions to government lawyers, telling them to give fair treatment to First Nations suing the government over treaty rights, after departing PCO clerk Michael Wernick warned Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s instructions could be “gutted” by a new government or attorney general.
Two Canadian lawyers who represent First Nations in treaty cases say the directive was a step toward reconciliation, but only has as much strength as the government of the day gives to it.
“It’s not legislation,” said Kate Gunn, a lawyer with First Peoples Law in B.C. “A lot of it depends on the extent to which government, the bureaucrats are committed to pushing for it to be fulfilled.”
Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s directive included 20 guidelines for the government and its lawyers as they deal with litigation over treaty rights with Indigenous peoples. The guidelines say that government lawyers should not object to First Nations’ claims of historical use of a territory when there are “no conflicting interests” involved; that oral history should be treated respectfully as evidence; that the government should try to settle disputes out of court; and more.
Government lawyers have for years fought back against lawsuits from Indigenous people and First Nations by using “delay tactics” in court that make fighting the cases too expensive for the First Nation or Indigenous group behind the suit, said Scott Robertson, a lawyer with Nahwegahbow Corbiere Genoodmagejiig Barristers & Solicitors and the president of the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada.
Those tactics have included challenging First Nations’ sovereignty over the lands they had long occupied, he said. MORE
In our canoe we have all our laws, culture, and beliefs and in your vessel you shall have all your laws, culture, and beliefs, traveling side by side through life as equals never enforcing or interfering in each others affairs as long as the sun shall shine the grass shall grow and the rivers shall flow this will be everlasting.
…It is beyond dispute that at the time of contact Indigenous Nations were politically independent and governing themselves under there own laws. When sovereignty’s synonyms are considered, words such as jurisdiction, power, authority and control are found. I would argue that, since the Supreme Court of Canada has required a First Nation claiming Title to show ‘exclusive possession” which is jurisdiction and control, then that First Nation would also prove their Sovereignty.
Finally, International Law requires that Nation States must not interfere with the internal affairs of other Nation States. To do so would be a violation of recognized sovereignty.
The concept of sovereign non-interference is not exclusive to modern International Law. This concept has been foundational to the initial relationship between European newcomers and Indigenous Nations. Treaties were forged on this concept, most notably the Two-Row Wampum covenant that makes clear the principle of non-interference and mutual respect are the foundation of every Treaty. The principle of ‘non-interference’ is a necessary component of the International legal understanding of Sovereignty.
Why Exert Sovereignty?
The need to exert sovereignty by Indigenous Nations flows from the Colonizer’s assertion that the Crown became sovereign over all the lands and peoples living upon Turtle Island at “Discovery”. The Doctrine of Discovery and the concept of terra nullius meaning – ’empty land’ are the legal foundations upon which European Crowns made pompous claims of sovereignty over Indigenous lands and populations. The Courts have used these doctrines and principles and upheld them to find in favour of the Settler State. MORE
A ‘Canadian definition’ of the UNDRIP aims to extinguish 8th Fire
“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