Friday, February 15, 2013

Assimilate Canadian First Nations or Respect/Protect Their Rights/Culture/Identity

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the legal basis for Canadian aboriginal treaty rights and aboriginal rights. This British declaration of law by King George the Third has not been appealed and is technically still in force.
The Canadian First Nations are under pressure by the Canadian federal government to assimilate into mainstream Canadian society. The policy of the federal government amounts to annihilation of the Canadian First Nations through denying them their treaty rights, caps on and reduced federal payments to First Nations, privatization First Nations' lands, and individualization of First Nations' people.

Many First Nations people believe that these policies will annihilate their culture, identity as peoples, way of life, and leave them the poorest minority in Canada.

The actions of the federal government violate the United Nations' declared rights for aboriginals and Canadian treaty process in which purchases of First Nations' lands must occur through treaties.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The issue at stake for all Canadians is destroying First Nations culture and identity or respecting, protecting and preserving First Nations culture and identity. In my opinion, Canadian First Nations are an integral part of Canadian culture, history, and identity, and First Nations provide unique guidance and perspective on the direction of Canadian society due to their strong ties to the land and collective spirit.

Below is relevant information on this issue that I have recently collected:

A. On February 7, 2013, I attended a teach-in at the University of Calgary on the issues facing Canadian First Nations. These are the main points I took away from the teach-in:

1. Royal Proclamation of 1763 is declaration of law by the King George the 3rd that establishes indigenous rights and indigenous territory free of settlers, and a policy of purchase of indigenous lands through treaties. The Royal Proclamation has never been appealed, and it is still technically in force today.

2. Section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes the inherent rights of aboriginals.


Recognition of existing aboriginal and treaty rights

35.(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

Definition of "aboriginal peoples of Canada"

(2) In this Act, "aboriginal peoples of Canada" includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Marginal note: Land claims agreements

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) "treaty rights" includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

Marginal note: Aboriginal and treaty rights are guaranteed equally to both sexes

(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons. (96)

Marginal note: Commitment to participation in constitutional conference

35.1 The government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 of the "Constitution Act, 1867", to section 25 of this Act or to this Part,

(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and

(b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item. (97)

Section 35 is ambiguous as what the actual aboriginal rights are. Article 35.1 merely establishes a requirement to consult aboriginal peoples regarding constitutional changes.

3. The Indian Act establishes that the Canadian Parliament supersedes the authority of aboriginals over their lands. 

4. The Canadian Supreme Court over a number First Nations cases has established the legal duty (or fiduciary duty) of the federal and provincial governments to consult on matters that pertain to First Nations peoples via Chiefs and Councils. Aboriginal communities often times cope with Chiefs and Councils who do not consult their own people on matters that pertain to them.

5. The recent federal government omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 contain many loopholes for Canada's oil and gas industries in regard to First Nations rights and the environment. (These loopholes are similar to what occurred in the United States during the G.W. Bush administration and in regard to U.S. gas fracturing.) For example, there are provisions in Bill C-45 in which endangered species legislation does not apply to the oil and gas industry. These bills which were forced through the Canadian Parliament in 2012 contain 130 bills in just two bills. In addition, the federal government is in the process of passing a series of legislation on First Nations such as bill C-212 which would accelerate the process of First Nations assimilation.

B. This article "Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan: As Negotiating Tables Legitimize Canada’s Colonialism" by the First Nations Strategic Policy Counsel outlines the federal government threat to the Canadian First Nations, namely the acceleration of the First Nations assimilation and thereby rejection of their aboriginal and treaty rights, and their very existence as First Nations people.

Excerpts from the article:

On September 4th, 2012 the Harper government clearly signaled its intention to:
1) Focus all its efforts to assimilate First Nations into the existing federal and provincial orders of government of Canada;
2) Terminate the constitutionally protected and internationally recognized Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations.
Termination in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal coercion of First Nations into Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights....

The long-term goals set out in the Harper government’s policy and legislative initiatives listed above are not new; they are at least as old as the Indian Act and were articulated in the federal 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy, which set out a plan to terminate Indian rights as the time.
Previous Termination Plans: 1969 White Paper & Buffalo Jump of 1980’s
The objectives of the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy were to:
1. Assimilate First Nations.
2. Remove legislative recognition.
3. Neutralize constitutional status.
4. Impose taxation.
5. Encourage provincial encroachment.
6. Eliminate Reserve lands & extinguish Aboriginal Title.
7. Economically underdevelop communities.
8. Dismantle Treaties.

Given their silence over the Harper government’s “results based” “take it or leave it” negotiations approach, it seems many of the negotiating First Nations at the Comprehensive Claims and/or Self-Government tables are still contemplating concluding Agreements under Canada’s termination policies.

This can only lead to further division among First Nations across Canada as more First Nations compromise their constitutional and international rights by consenting to final settlement agreements under the terms and conditions of Canada’s termination policies, while undermining the political positions of the non-negotiating First Nations.

In the meantime, Harper’s government will continue pawning off Indigenous lands and resources in the midst of a financial crisis though free trade and foreign investment protection agreements, which will secure foreign corporate access to lands and resources and undermine Indigenous Rights....

It appears First Nations are at the proverbial “end of the trail” as the Chiefs seem to be either co-opted or afraid to challenge the Harper government. Most grassroots peoples aren’t even fully informed about the dangerous situation facing them and their future generations.

The only way to counter the Harper government is to:
1. have all negotiating First Nations suspend their talks; and
2. organize coordinated National Days of Action to register First Nations opposition to
the Harper government’s termination plan;
3. Demand Canada suspend all First Nations legislation in Parliament, cease introducing
new Bills and
4. Change Canada’s Land Claims and Self-Government Policies to “recognize and affirm” the Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations, including respect and implementation of the Historic Treaties.
If there is no organized protest and resistance to the Harper government’s termination plan, First Nations should accept their place at the bottom of all social, cultural and economic indicators in Canada, just buy into Harper’s jobs and economic action plan—and be quiet about their rights.

C. In a recent FDA podcast interview of Ms. Lillian Crow-chief, Lillian says that land and money are the motivating factors in assimilating Canadian First Nations. In addition, she says that the current federal government policies, which include divide and conquer and take it or leave it approaches, amount to culturecide.

Insight into the Struggles and Hopes of Canadian First Nations people


Should money interests supersede Canadian values, and its history and culture as represented partly by First Nations?

Should industrial development supersede First Nations' rights and the environment including protection of endangered species?

To what extent can First Nations' culture and identity be protected and preserved? Is this simply a matter of political will?

Should aboriginal rights and way of life be respected?

Is peaceful co-existence and share of wealth and resources attainable between First Nations and non-First Nations? How can neo-liberalism and capitalism co-exist with harmony and balance with nature? Should the constant drive for money and profit supersede basic Canadian rights and values? 

Article 8 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which Canada is signatory to, states:

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director


Question for Readers:

Is the annihilation of Canadian First Nations culture and identity in the better interests of all Canadians or is this annihilation simply in the better interests of a minority of Canadians who stand to benefit from access to First Nations lands and the resources contained on them?


Thank you for sharing your perspective.