By Barbara Amiel - Friday, February 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Aboriginal peoples of Canada deserve justice, says Barbara Amiel, but negotiations will be complicated
The hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was really more of a diet and thank goodness for that. Spence went 44 days eating only fish broth, herbal tea and water and emerged looking haggard but still well-rounded. IRA protester Bobby Sands, skeletal and comatose, died of hunger—the first of several IRA hunger deaths—in a British prison hospital in 1981. Our other Aboriginal “hunger” striker, Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson, ended his strike simultaneously and told CBC he couldn’t get a proper medical exam after his ordeal. He encountered that special Canadian experience—the overworked emergency ward of delays and curt questions, in his case by a “blond” nurse who he felt was exhibiting “racism” in her tone—and so he went home.
I appreciate that hunger strikes aren’t a competitive sport but one shouldn’t despoil them by so poor a showing. Or they become meaningless, rather like armed road blockages and millions of bucks gone missing on some reserves, not to mention the billions poured annually into Aboriginal programs. These tactics tend to put non-Aboriginals off. Continue…
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 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 John Geddes - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
The way to read yesterday’s decision by Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan—if you want to get a feel for his ruling that the federal government must extend legal recognition as “Indians” to Métis and so-called “non-status Indians”—is out loud.
I suspect many Canadians would stumble, at least on the last word, trying to recite, for instance, this passage: “As said earlier, the factor which distinguishes both non-status Indians and Métis from the rest of Canadians (and has done so when this country was less culturally and ethnicly diverse) is that native heritage—their ‘Indianess’.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
Bob Rae spoke in the House this morning on his motion about replacing the Indian Act.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A debate about whether to repeal the centuries-old Indian Act is back…
OTTAWA – A debate about whether to repeal the centuries-old Indian Act is back before the House of Commons.
Last week, the Conservatives moved forward with a private members’ bill that would delete several sections of the act as a start towards fully dismantling it.
Now, the Liberals have introduced their own motion calling for talks with First Nations to replace the old legislation with something better suited to current realities.
The Indian Act came into effect in 1876 and sets out the terms of the relationship between the federal Crown and First Nations.
The motion introduced by interim Liberal leader Bob Rae calls the existing legislation an embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies.
Rae says it creates a barrier to economic and social development for First Nations and needs to be dismantled.
He says the Conservative bill was drafted without consultation with First Nations communities, while his own motion is the product of extensive talks.
Conservative MP Rob Clarke, who sponsored the bill, says it’s based on his discussions with aboriginal leaders.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Den Tandt proposes a dozen policy directions for the Liberal party.
Make the first $25,000 of income for anyone earning their livelihood as artist, or a farmer, tax-free…
Design a system of proportional representation, perhaps based on the Australian model, that works for Canada. Draft accountability reforms that restore the traditional powers of MPs in the House of Commons, and that cannot be scrapped or ignored if you get back into power…
Declare that the Indian Act is racist, an abomination in modern Canada. Dedicate yourself to its speedy and complete abolition in a way that respects First Nations concerns about losing even more than they’ve already lost. Wherever possible, and if local people approve, give title to existing reserve lands to the people who live on the land, to do with as they please.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 1:08 PM - 0 Comments
Ottawa sees no need to abandon incremental approach
The Indian Act will not be repealed or rewritten, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the opening of a special one-day meeting between the Crown and First Nations in Ottawa on Tuesday. The government’s approach will be to replace parts of the Indian Act in tandem with provinces and First Nations, the prime minister said. Harper said that “aggressive” action is needed to address the living standards of Canada’s First Nations, but did not announce new government initiatives. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, struck an equally unambitious note, saying the meeting is about rebuilding trust and renewing the relationship between First Nations’ chiefs and Ottawa. Other chiefs in attendance criticised the prime minister for a failure to take any novel concrete steps.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 9:58 AM - 0 Comments
The prepared text of the Prime Minister’s remarks at today’s summit.
Au-gee-na-pee. Bienvenue, Mesdames et messieurs. Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you … on the traditional territory of the Algonquin … to this historic Crown-First Nations Gathering. And it is especially appropriate to do so in this building. Un édifice dont le nom honore la mémoire du Premier ministre John George Diefenbaker, l’instigateur des relations de l’ère moderne entre la Couronne et les Premières Nations. A building whose name honours the memory of a prime minister who cared deeply about the things we are gathered here to talk about: respect, rights and opportunity for First Nations Canadians.
John George Diefenbaker was, in many ways, the initiator of the modern era of Crown – First Nations relations. It was he who named the first First Nations member to the Parliament of Canada, Senator James Gladstone in 1958. And, of course, it was he who, two years later, extended to aboriginal Canadians living on reserves the right to vote in national elections. In addressing that long-standing and fundamental injustice, he was a man ahead of his time and in many ways, an apt inspiration for today’s proceedings.
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 8 Comments
On moving beyond residential schools, overcoming cynicism and trusting the Tories
AFTER TWO YEARS as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo is cautiously optimistic about the relationship he is forging with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. On Tuesday, at the assembly’s annual meeting in Moncton, N.B., he proposed replacing the federal Aboriginal Affairs Department with a system that allows bands more autonomy and lessens the heavy federal intervention required under the Indian Act. “The patterns of the past have to be essentially smashed,” he told Maclean’s. Atleo, a hereditary chief in the tiny B.C. island community of Ahousaht, reads vindication in the recent report by now-retired auditor general Sheila Fraser. It warns, as Atleo and successive national chiefs have said, that the quality of life on reserves is worsening and the existing system of financing and accountability must be overhauled.
Q: The last time we spoke, you called your home community of Ahousaht a microcosm of First Nations across the country. So, how is Ahousaht faring?
A: Oh, it has its struggles, to be frank. They’re working on them, and we’ve got a new generation of leadership coming on.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 6 Comments
Shawn Atleo, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says it’s time to move toward scrapping the Indian Act and dumping the recently renamed Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Here is his speech to AFN’s general assembly in Moncton yesterday.
Advancing the First Nation Crown relationship means progress through steps like the First Nation-Crown Gathering, First Ministers meetings with First Nations and a potential First Nation-Crown agreement that advances and affirms our rights. We need new fiscal relationships built on common, mutually acceptable principles that guarantee and deliver sustainable, equitable services based on mutually agreed-to standards. We must implement our governments through building our institutions, planning and accountability mechanisms and finally we must drive structural change.
This is change that must first affirm First Nation jurisdiction, must include careful legal review and analysis and then advance structural changes to the machinery of the federal government. Right now, the bureaucracy and its policies are failing miserably. We need new structures that affirm the relationship and uphold the responsibility.
The AFN report that sets out this vision is here.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Who’s suing whom
British Columbia: An Aboriginal activist is suing the federal government claiming that it discriminates against Aboriginal women. The activist takes umbrage with the Indian Act, which denies descendents of unmarried Indian women eligibility to register as a status Indian—unlike the children of unmarried Indian men, who are eligible.
Alberta: A woman is taking a Calgary nightclub to court claiming that, by encouraging “physically attractive” patrons to use the dance floor in order to boost its liquor sales, the club created an atmosphere that caused her to fall and break her arm two years ago on Halloween. The suit alleges that alcohol was served in such great quantities that it allowed the patrons to become unlawfully intoxicated. The woman is seeking $500,000 in damages for her broken arm as well as “permanent personal injuries” and “situational depression.”
Manitoba: Parents of a 12-year-old boy are suing the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, alleging that after a tonsillectomy their son was left in a “persistent vegetative state.” Five days following his operation in late November, the boy had trouble breathing and began coughing up blood, and was admitted to the emergency room. The lawsuit names a number of doctors and nurses, and claims the boy’s injuries were avoidable and caused by negligence.
Ontario: A Canadian convicted of a series of bank heists in the U.S. is suing the federal government claiming it breached his constitutional right to a timely transfer home. In 1989, when he was serving a 55-year sentence for armed robbery in the U.S., he applied for a transfer to Canada. Though it was approved in 1991, he wasn’t moved until 2000. In the lawsuit, the bank robber claims he was emotionally and physically abused by prison staff while he was serving time in California, Colorado, Indiana and Illinois.