By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
Buckingham Palace won’t be getting involved in the matter of Theresa Spence’s hunger strike.
In a letter dated Jan. 7, obtained by The Canadian Press, Buckingham Palace tells a supporter of Spence that the chief should deal instead with the federal cabinet. “This is not a matter in which The Queen would intervene,” says the letter. “As a constitutional Sovereign, Her Majesty acts through her personal representative, the Governor General, on the advice of her Canadian Ministers and, therefore, it is to them that your appeal should be directed.”
The letter also says the Queen understands the concerns about the welfare of Spence, who is now well into her sixth week of protest, surviving on fish broth and tea. “Her Majesty has taken careful note of the concern you express for the welfare of Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence who is currently on a politically motivated hunger strike in Canada.”
Here again is Emmett Macfarlane’s take on the request that the Governor General be involved. And here is the unofficial explanation from the government as to why the Governor General wasn’t present at the meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 4:54 PM - 0 Comments
The New Democrats announced this morning that Romeo Saganash has been named the “Deputy Critic for Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs.”
The job seems established to focus on relations between the federal government and First Nations as separate governmental institutions and systems, “nation to nation” as the relationship is often described. And perhaps this raises a question about the ministerial portfolio of intergovernmental affairs itself: namely, should the intergovernmental affairs minister be newly tasked with acting as an envoy to First Nations?
At present, it is unclear—at least to me—what the intergovernmental affairs minister does, or is even supposed to do: see here, here and here for recent reference. The Prime Minister deals with the Premiers and various ministers deal with their counterparts at the provincial level. The precise necessity of an intergovernmental affairs minister to manage relations with other levels of government in that current context is debatable. (Presently in Ontario, for what it is worth, the premier is his own intergovernmental affairs minister.)
There was some questioning of Peter Penashue’s absence from last week’s meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations given his background, but at the time I thought it would be more interesting to wonder if his portfolio might be a better reason to be involved. (Though the controversies around Mr. Penashue might not make him an ideal candidate to be thrust into the spotlight presently.) There are myriad governance and treaty issues between the federal government and First Nations. Granted, there is already an aboriginal affairs minister. But we have similarly acknowledged a diversity of issues on international affairs, dividing it up between foreign affairs, international trade and international cooperation. And so, if we are to have an intergovernmental affairs minister at all, he or she might be used to provide new focus to the “nation to nation” relationship and negotiations at a governmental level (and, for that matter, such a change might demonstrate the start of something of a new approach to the situation).
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 5:26 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP talks about alcoholism, residential schools and #IdleNoMore
Three months ago, news broke that NDP MP Romeo Saganash had been removed from an Air Canada flight after he had been deemed too intoxicated to fly. Two hours later, Saganash announced that he would be seeking medical treatment for a dependence on alcohol.
Born in the remote community of Waswanipi, Quebec, Saganash was raised in the bush before being taken away from his family to attend a residential school. He would go on to receive his law degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal and become a prominent leader and negotiator with the Grand Council of the Cree, engaged in debates about sovereignty for Quebec, treaty rights and resource development, and in 2011 he was introduced as a star candidate for the NDP in Quebec. In the wake of Jack Layton’s death, Saganash stepped forward as a candidate for the party’s leadership.
“I am not looking at excuses, but I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. I never shied away from that,” he wrote when he stepped away. “The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me. Like him, I needed a crutch. The leadership race wore me out, on top of taking me away from my children and my loved ones even more often. Life on Parliament Hill can be hectic and exciting, but it is also full of obstacles and pitfalls. Many of my colleagues can attest to this.”
He returned to work in his riding yesterday and was back on Parliament Hill today. Seated in his office, he answered questions about his childhood, life, his alcoholism, his treatment and how a kid from the bush got here—about the pain of residential schools and the mission of his political life. “I recall looking at my leader, straight in the eyes, when I told them I’ll seek help in order to come back well. And that is what I did,” he says. “And you also have this feeling that you’ve disappointed a whole bunch of people. Not only your immediate family, my children, but also my political family. I felt that I’d let down the NDP and my colleagues. I regretted that very much. And my voters, my electors, as well. All that comes into play in your mind when something like that happens. But I was prepared for the challenge. I said to myself that I’ve slayed other dragons before in my life and this one won’t be different.”
While he was away, the Idle No More movement took shape and made its presence felt and Saganash, a man steeped in these issues and debates, also talked about the protests, Theresa Spence, Shawn Atleo, the way forward and the possibility for progress. “A lot of people I hear discussing the aboriginal question or issue in this country say, well, it’s going to take a lot of time to fix the problem. Yeah, perhaps. Perhaps, allow me to say. But the fundamental thing that is required, and it’s a very basic thing, is the political will. Is there the political will to really fix the problem, once and for all, for the benefit of all Canadians? If that political will is there, the rest will come more easily. And that’s what I’m looking for.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 2:43 PM - 0 Comments
After an incident aboard an Air Canada plane in October, NDP MP Romeo Saganash acknowledged that he had a dependence on alcohol and announced that he would be taking a leave to seek treatment. The former Cree leader and negotiator returned to work yesterday. I sat down with him in his Parliament Hill office this morning to talk about his fight against alcoholism, his experiences as a child in a residential school, #IdleNoMore, Theresa Spence and his role as an aboriginal in politics. This is part one of our conversation. Part two is here.
First of all, how are you doing?
Very well. I’m glad to be back. I missed a lot of things apparently. (laughs)
Yeah, just a couple things happened while you were away. How has the last month or so gone? I take it you went through a program or some kind of treatment, how did that go?
That went very well. I’m glad I did it. I told my leader that that was probably the best decision I ever took in my entire career. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me to work on myself and care about myself as well. And that’s important. I was just recalling with the previous reporter that I started out back in 1981 when the late Billy Diamond called upon me to work for the Grand Council of Cree, so I’ve been in this for a long time. And I guess throughout this period, at one point you forget about yourself.
Had it ever been suggested to you, had anyone ever said to you before this, that they thought you might have a problem?
It never occurred to you, either?
Well, perhaps at times, yeah, but not really directly, no one has ever… I think the way that I looked at it over the years was that if it started affecting my job than there’s something wrong. But that never happened, so I just went on with things. And then this incident happened and I said to myself, well, okay, perhaps there might be a problem.
In that statement you released when you said you were going to take some time off, you talked about a few things, one of them being your residential school experience. Do you see that as the root of things? Is that where the trouble starts?
Well, I don’t necessarily want to blame what happened on anything else besides me. I’m the one at the end of the day that took decisions about many things, including alcohol. And I accept that responsibility and I admitted that responsibility and I went and sought help and treatment. But certainly one of the things that they try to teach or that you learn in treatment is that there’s a time when you have to look back on where you come from. And definitely one of the things that I thought about a lot is how my 10 years in a residential school affected who I am today, or tainted who I am today and the way I am today. Definitely. Most definitely. Ten years is a long time. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 12:55 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from National Chief Shawn Atleo on his decision to take a leave.
First Nations citizens have just witnessed one of the most important chapters in our recent history. Through the pressure of the grassroots, the sacrifices made by Chief Spence and her fellow strikers, and the work of many regional Chiefs and the National Executive of the AFN, we have seized the attention of Canadians and of this government.
We forced open the door to the PMO and to the Governor-General. We achieved a commitment to the personal leadership of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office and other senior ministers. Now they know that the whole world is watching what progress we make. Now they understand the consequences of failure.
We have a responsibility to work together to push forward our work that relates to each of the eight elements that emerged from our discussions this week – on Treaty, on comprehensive claims, resource revenue sharing, action to assess and halt provisions of legislation that contravene our rights, on the urgent needs of our communities and justice for our missing women. We have leaders in place to ensure that detailed work gets done. And now we have the public commitment of this government and this Prime Minister that they will treat these issues as their priorities.
I am proud of the support we received from First Nations citizens and Chiefs across Canada, even during the most difficult days. There were many long conference calls, late night meetings, and frustrations in the past two weeks. I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me. This weekend, my doctor ordered that I take some time now to rest and recover and I have agreed with my family that I do this now.
I ask that Regional Chief Augustine continue to chair and facilitate our National Executive meetings in my brief absence and that Regional Chief Bellegarde and Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould continue the work that they led this week on Treaty implementation and on comprehensive claims. As we did in the meeting on January 11 – we must seize the agenda and drive the next steps on each and every element. I encourage everyone to contribute fully to these next steps. I have also directed the senior staff of the Assembly of First Nations to mobilize staff working teams on these elements to provide the analysis and support required.
Finally as we have done from the very beginning, we continue to offer our support and prayers for Chief Spence, the hunger strikers and for all of our peoples standing up through peaceful demonstrations and protest. As we told the Prime Ministers – our voices, the voices of all of our citizens will not be silenced. We will drive change now.
Friends and colleagues, this has been a fateful moment in the decades of struggle by our peoples. We have secured important new ground. Now the harder, but less visible, work of turning promises into action begins. I look forward to working with all of you on those tasks in the weeks and months ahead. Together I am confident we ensure that this week marks the end of a long bitter chapter of paralysis and provocation in our relationship with the GoC, and that it truly is the beginning of a new chapter.
I will see you all very soon and will return re-invigorated and strengthened to work with you to drive this change together with all of you.
I’m told Chief Atleo came down with the norovirus over the holidays in December.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader says Theresa Spence should end her hunger strike.
“I would sincerely call upon Chief Spence to realize that there has been a step in the right direction, to try and see now if we can keep putting pressure on the government to follow through,” Mulcair said during an interview with CTV’s Question Period. “The government seems to be moving so I think that the best thing to do would be to step back from that now.”
Mr. Mulcair is joined in this view by Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and by former national chief Matthew Coon Come, who was asked about Ms. Spence during a Sunday interview with The West Block.
Eric Sorensen: Do you support the hunger strike, or do you think that she should stop that now?
Chief Matthew Coon Come: Each person must decide what they think they need to do to raise the issues. I think she should stop her hunger strike because she already met with the governor general. There’s already a meeting with the prime minister. She may or may not have participated but that is fine. That is what she wanted.
Eric Sorensen: She should declare victory.
Chief Matthew Coon Come: I think she may have lost an opportunity to declare victory.
Ms. Spence’s spokesman says the demand is still a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Governor General and First Nations leadership and Ms. Spence seems to think the First Nations representatives who were present on Friday weren’t sufficient (“Thirty First Nation Chiefs don’t represent nor legitimize the mandate of all First Nations”). There were about 20 First Nations leaders in Langevin for the meeting on Friday, but not representatives from Ontario or Manitoba. Manitoba’s chiefs specifically pointed to the absence of the Governor General as their reason for not attending. Count Mr. Coon Come among those who find this a troublesome demand.
Eric Sorensen: At the end of the day, it seemed to come down to the governor general not being in the room. Why was that not a deal breaker for you?
Chief Matthew Coon Come: Well personally, I think there is a misunderstanding on the role of the governor general. The Constitution of this country was patriatated and executive powers were given to the prime minister, and the prime minister will not transfer his executive powers to the governor general. So it’s symbolic.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
An anonymous government official explains why the Governor General wasn’t in the room for yesterday’s meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders.
Harper’s team did finally instruct the Governor General to hold a ceremonial meeting Friday evening at Rideau Hall. But there was no question of involving Johnston directly in the meetings themselves.
“Our real bottom line was that it couldn’t be the same meeting because that line can’t get blurred,” said the official. “We’re the ones responsible here, we’re the ones that can act and have to act. Not the Governor General. There’s nothing he can do constitutionally, so we didn’t want to give that impression.”
Here again is Emmett Macfarlane’s analysis of the demand that the Governor General be present.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after noon, with a group of women standing as human obstacles in front of the Langevin Block’s main doors, a crowd spilling out into the street, a man in a fur hat—Raymond Robinson, I believe, the Manitoba elder who has been on a hunger strike for the past month—stepped forward to shout his demands at the building, an imposing, Gothic Revival bunker across the street from Parliament Hill.
“Come on out, Harper!
“Come on Harper! Come on out!”
“Come on Harper, come outside! Be a man!
“Nation to nation! No more, no less!”
Around him, protesters drummed and sang in the cold and the rain. Two carved eagle heads were held aloft along with a dozen flags. A chant of “Idle! No More!” rose up from the crowd.
“I don’t want to fight, I just want to talk to you!”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM - 0 Comments
The Assembly of First Nations has released its reaction to today’s meeting.
“We have achieved some movement today,” said National Chief Atleo. “The Prime Minister listened respectfully to Chiefs and responded to all they brought forward and for the first time, provided a clear mandate for high-level talks on Treaty Implementation. Prime Minister Harper also committed to high-level discussions on comprehensive claims.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 7:05 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on today’s meeting.
The Prime Minister met this afternoon with National Chief Shawn Atleo and leaders from Canada’s First Nations communities. The Prime Minister participated in the full meeting and had a good, frank dialogue with all participants. While both sides did not come to agreement on all matters, the First Nations leaders brought serious and important proposals to the table.
The government remains committed to ongoing dialogue on Aboriginal issues and to taking achievable steps that will provide better outcomes in First Nations communities.
To that end, the Prime Minister agreed to high-level dialogues on the treaty relationship and comprehensive claims. The Prime Minister agreed with the need to provide enhanced oversight from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office on Aboriginal matters.
The Prime Minister agreed to debrief the members of his Cabinet and government on today’s discussions and agreed to meet with AFN National Chief Atleo in the coming weeks to review next steps.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 5:18 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.
In recent days we have seen the frustrations from years of failed promises. Prime Minister Stephen Harper heard about these frustrations first-hand from the delegation of Chiefs who met with him this afternoon.
After the Crown-First Nations Gathering last year, many First Nations were hopeful that the Prime Minister would change how he dealt with First Nations issues. And last November, National Chief Shawn Atleo sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking when those commitments would be honoured, because there had been no action. The Prime Minister could have prevented all this if he had followed up on his commitments from last year’s meetings. Instead of respectful dialogue, Conservatives pushed through an omnibus budget bill without ever consulting the First Nations being affected.
In a letter to the Prime Minister before Christmas, our leader, Tom Mulcair, warned Stephen Harper that it was past time to follow through on the commitments, and urged him to act immediately.
In recent days we have witnessed an incredible diversity of First Nations youth, women, leaders and politicians letting all Canadians know that issues like treaty implementation, missing and murdered Aboriginal women, resource sharing, protecting the environment, and poverty eradication need to be given a higher priority by this Conservative government.
The grassroots movement we are witnessing has the potential to unite all Canadians who share these concerns.
Now it’s time for the government to start listening.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM - 0 Comments
Emmett Macfarlane considers the Governor General and his place, or lack thereof, in the current discussion.
The governor general’s role is almost entirely symbolic, in that it reflects the source of sovereign power in the Canadian state. But that power should only be exercised by state institutions, comprising the executive, legislature and judiciary. The governor general plays no political or policy role. He has no autonomous capacity to act in First Nations’ interest. Nor does the Queen, for that matter, and if she tried, it would rightly be regarded as an affront to Canadian constitutionalism.
This does not mean the governor general cannot or should not meet with First Nations. In fact, he was present at last year’s Crown-First Nations “gathering” which was meant to mark renewal in the relationship. But it would be inappropriate for the governor general to attend today’s meeting, which was the product of political protest and which is supposed to focus on policy demands (such as those concerning the government’s omnibus legislation).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 12:03 PM - 0 Comments
An hour away from this afternoon’s scheduled meeting, there is no clarity as to whether it will happen or, if it does happen, who will be in attendance.
Protesters are gathering on Parliament Hill. Bob Rae is speaking with reporters in the National Press Theatre. And threats of disruptions are being floated.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
Nick Taylor-Vaisey has a rough guide to the Idle No More protests and the meeting that now seems unlikely.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 9:59 PM - 0 Comments
Reports vary as to who might or might not be participating in tomorrow’s planned meeting between the Harper government and First Nations leaders, if that meeting is to take place in some form or another.
APTN reports that Shawn Atleo is to take the matter to the Prime Minister’s Office tonight to request a larger venue and the presence of the Governor General.
Mr. Atleo addressed the Assembly of First Nations meeting in downtown Ottawa tonight. My recording of his remarks—beginning about 10 second after he started speaking—is below.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:01 PM - 0 Comments
Manitoba’s chiefs have issued a release to say they will not be taking part to say in tomorrow’s meeting.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and Southern Chiefs Organization, along with Chiefs from across Canada have just received word from the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Office that Prime Minister Harper will not allow Governor General David Johnston to be in the meeting with the First Nations leadership of Canada.
The First Nations leadership has invited the Prime Minister of Canada and the Governor General to meet with the entire delegation of First Nations leadership from across the country at the Delta Hotel on January 11, 2013. This invitation still stands but unfortunately the Prime Minister has declined this invitation.
The First Nations leadership has maintained their position for the last week that both the Prime Minister and the Governor General were to be in the same room at the same time to discuss how to reset the First Nation – Crown relationship. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has been very dictatorial and unrelenting in his position to control and set the agenda for this meeting. This clearly demonstrates that the Government of Canada does not have any iota of concern or respect for the rights of the Indigenous people of this country.
Chiefs, many of them emotional, are currently addressing a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations at a hotel ballroom in downtown Ottawa, debating whether chiefs should attend tomorrow’s meeting with the Prime Minister.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
The itinerary for Friday’s meeting between the Harper government and aboriginal leaders at the Langevin Block (the building across from Parliament Hill that houses the Prime Minister’s Office).
1pm: Opening session with remarks from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo
1:30pm-4:00pm: Plenary session to discuss the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights, and economic development. Chairs: John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; Perry Bellegarde, Regional Chief; Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board; and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Regional Chief
4:00pm-5:00pm: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo will engage in a dialogue with the Chairs about the outcomes of the plenary session
The proceedings apparently won’t be televised and the Prime Minister won’t be taking questions from reporters afterwards. As noted, a ceremonial meeting with the Governor General is expected to occur at Rideau Hall after the meetings at Langevin.
Tonight, at Stornoway, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is meeting with 20 First Nations chiefs, including Shawn Atleo.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley points to one part of C-45, last year’s second budget implementation act.
Until C-45 passed, reserves wishing to lease off parts of their land to businesses had to obtain the consent, in a referendum, of 50%-plus-one members, with a quorum of 50%. If that failed, a second referendum could be launched, and the plan approved with a simple majority, no quorum. Now a single simple majority vote is all that’s needed. Some native leaders object to this amendment on principle. But many others support the changes as a way of streamlining a process that can take years, during which time reserves are at a huge disadvantage in attracting new businesses compared to surrounding communities that are subject to no such process. (Here’s a crazy idea: Why can’t reserves decide the process for themselves?) At the Aboriginal Affairs Committee on Nov. 19, representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Tax Commission, the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board and the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association all expressed support for untangling land designations.
But the democratic process that led to these amendments came in for a pounding, both from otherwise supportive witnesses and opposition politicians. Andrew Beynon, the witness from the Aboriginal Affairs department, conceded that there had been no “extensive consultation process,” and that he had never before seen such a sensitive matter crammed into an omnibus bill. Suspicion is warranted any time a government tries to slip something by you in a giant document without asking your opinion.
Two First Nations from Alberta are seeking to challenge C-38 and C-45 in federal court on the grounds that they were not consulted, but their concerns seem to be primarily with the changes made to the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Structural reform to limit the ability of a government to table and pass omnibus legislation is probably necessary—if you take the opinion that such bills are a problem and that actual, codified reform is the only way to establish change—but I wonder whether we might reach a point at which the practice is more trouble than it is worth: that what is gained by a government in getting to do what it wants to do in a relatively expedient manner is surpassed by the consternation that results. Does the very idea of omnibus legislation become poisoned? Or can you eventually exhaust the public (and perhaps critics) into accepting that this is how business is done?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A senior government source tells the Star that the Prime Minister understands the importance of Friday’s meeting with aboriginal leaders, but the Globe wonders if the meeting will happen at all—some chiefs apparently agreeing with Theresa Spence that the Governor General must be present. Or, as one chief explained to APTN, “If there is any honour in this Crown the governor general better get his ass there.” (I believe the proper phrasing is “his right honourable ass.”)
There is a lot of history between First Nations and the crown—some of First Nations leaders have requested a meeting with the Queen later this year—but it’s not clear to me what the Governor General could be expected to do here. If this were a larger summit or gathering, you might imagine the Governor General participating in an opening or closing ceremony. But this is said to a be a working meeting—Shawn Atleo has specifically noted the difference—and the Prime Minister and his cabinet are responsible for government policy.
In that regard, APTN lists a few potential demands that are being considered.
According to a draft position from Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization obtained by APTN National News, it appears First Nations leaders are planning to put repealing the Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, the government’s omnibus budget bills on the table.
The draft outline, which APTN National News was told broadly, reflected the direction of discussions, also called for Canada to set a timeline and process to scrap the Indian Act and replace it with a “Treaty Recognition and Implementation Act.”
Fully repealing 900 pages of legislation—the combined extent of C-38 and C-45—seems a rather large request at this point, but the Indian Act is already up for debate and there seems unanimous agreement that it must (somehow) be replaced.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Mr. Clarke’s bill has the stated support of the government and passed at second reading on December 5 with the vote split along party lines. Here is APTN’s overview of the bill’s changes and the opposition’s concerns about reforming the Indian Act via a private member’s bill. Mr. Clarke launched the first hour of debate on the bill on October 18. The second hour of debate was held on November 28.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:59 PM - 0 Comments
“We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace and requesting that Queen Elizabeth II send forth her representative which is the Governor General of Canada. I will not be attending Friday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, as the Governor General’s attendance is integral when discussing Inherent and Treaty Rights,” stated Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Chelsea Vowel considers #IdleNoMore and what needs to change.
In short, you cannot expect things to improve if we have no real control over our lives, our lands, and our resources. This is the sort of control that Canadians have for themselves, and take for granted as necessary, though its expression in our context will not look exactly the same.
What successive Canadian governments have repeatedly attempted is a top-down approach that puts the relationship last. Report after report shows that this approach has failed miserably. Canadians need to understand that the current relationship makes it impossible for indigenous peoples to truly govern their own affairs. What the wider public sees as an inability to self-govern is a nothing of the sort. We governed ourselves for centuries without interference, mitigating our differences via treaty relationships. We have not somehow lost that ability simply because we now share these lands with Canadians. Indigenous peoples have been prevented from exercising this power for too long.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
It was the audit that led to the media ban, said Ms. Kataquapit. “We are just going to wait for the results of Chief Spence’s meeting with the Prime Minister and government officials on Friday,” before deciding if media will be allowed back into Attawapiskat, she said.
It could be a long wait. Mr. Johnston’s office said Tuesday that he will not be at the meeting and Ms. Spence’s spokesman said that means she may also decide not to show up.
Spence’s spokesman Danny Metatawabin said the chief, who has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11 consuming only fish broth, medicine tea and water, wouldn’t attend the meeting if Johnston didn’t show. “If he is not going to be there Theresa is not going to the meeting,” said Metatawabin. “We are going to take it day by day.”
Metatawabin said they’ve relayed their position to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo. “We are going to have to take it day by day at this point to see if somehow he could be there,” he said.
Rideau Hall’s explanation is that Mr. Johnston won’t attend Friday’s meeting “because it consists of a working meeting with government on public policy issues.” Ultimately, his attendance depends on what the role of the governor general is supposed to be and what he is supposed to be involved. Here is how Philippe Lagasse explained matters last night.
As is often the case, the debate over the GG attending the meeting is coming down to how we define/understand the Crown.
If your looking at the Crown as the concept of the state and you want to emphasize equal sovereignties, you’ll go for GG attending.
If your defining the Crown as the executive here and want to stress that we’re all part of a united Canada, then you want GG away from it.
Anyway, for what it’s worth, I don’t see how the Crown could be there as the state, so it must be there as the executive power, so no GG.
A statement from AFN Chief Shawn Atleo on Monday described Friday’s meeting as follows.
The January 11 meeting between First Nation leaders and the Prime Minister is not a gathering or summit, rather a focused working meeting that must lead to a tangible plan for change. We all know that the hard work of First Nations does not start or end with one meeting, and that one meeting will not produce immediate results; however First Nation leaders will seek clear and concrete commitments to advancing existing priorities and ongoing work. This includes the implementation of Treaties on a Treaty by Treaty basis, respect for the nation-to-nation relationship, First Nations inherent rights, title and the responsibilities of First Nations to the lands and resources. Grounded firmly in our rights, we must achieve fair, sustainable financial relations and First Nation driven solutions on key priorities including ensuring safety, security and opportunity for all First Nation citizens.
Update 10:03am. The CBC talks to Chief Spence’s spokesman this morning and reports that she will attend. But CTV’s Robert Fife now tweets that Chief Spence wants the AFN to cancel the meeting if the Governor General and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty don’t attend.
Update 10:48am. Global is told Chief Spence won’t attend if the Governor General isn’t there.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Adams proposes seats for aboriginals in the House of Commons.
Having their own MPs would give Canada’s first peoples an opportunity to vote for representatives who hold their concerns as a priority and who could speak for them with a degree of independence and authority that no one now has. None of us thinks it is remarkable that Albertans or Québécois have their voices directly heard in Parliament: we have even had parties such as Reform and the Bloc which ran for election as voices for regional concerns. Is there something fundamentally wrong with aboriginal Canadians having a similar voice?
Aboriginal seats would hardly be a panacea. They would not displace protest or moral suasion. They would not end the need for negotiations over land and they would not remove the need for organizations such as the AFN. But they would ensure that aboriginal concerns were raised in the process of legislation, and not just in anguished howls afterward.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Agenda convenes a panel.
Adam Goldenberg looks forward.
But none of it will come to pass if Idle No More loses its coherence, or if it becomes an unwieldy dog’s breakfast of protest and pageantry that alienates the very Canadians who should be its audience. The movement’s first task should be to resist the easy analogies of ordinary politics — of “stakeholder relations” — by making its case not to the Conservatives, but to the people who put them in office.
We will know when it succeeds. When no Canadian is able to shrug off as unreasonable a demand from an aboriginal leader to meet with the government officials who advise and represent the Crown — namely, the prime minister and the Governor General — and not with some lesser minister in their stead; when First Nations no longer need to hire professional lobbyists in Ottawa to make their case to the government of Canada; and when the federal government recognizes, once and for all, that aboriginal peoples are partners in Confederation, not just stakeholders in politics, then Idle No More will have made an important and lasting contribution to the way we understand and govern our country.
Bob Rae considers the concerns.
It is a universal in life that people want recognition and respect. The deeper meaning of last year’s summit, and the Prime Minister’s eloquent apology in the House of Commons, is that there is a hunger for this respect, and appreciation when it is offered and followed with effective action. The Prime Minister faces a deep challenge. Many in his party are opposed to the recognition and constitutional protection that Aboriginal people have achieved, and to its implications. At the same time, the old bromides of assimilation and “let’s concentrate on education and the economy” completely ignore the aspirations for self-government, autonomy, and a real transfer of power and resources that have the deepest roots in today’s aboriginal politics. Mr. Harper’s apology in the House of Commons, and the summit he called last year, have simply not been followed by effective action.