After 12 years of meetings, Manitoba Chiefs voted this week to abandon existing self-government process as a waste of time with very little being achieved during that time. The chiefs determined that working with the bureaucratics is not going to achieve the government-to-government relationship required for real self-governance to work. See story below ...
Chiefs end talks with Ottawa
By Leighton Klassen - The Daily Graphic - Friday January 26, 2007
First Nations in this province have decided to end negotiations to dismantle the Manitoba division of Department of Indian Affairs.
Talks on the subject have been going on for 12 years, but a year-long review by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs concluded nothing of substance has been achieved.
“Over the years, negotiations became more at the bureaucratic level and not at the First Nations level, so we felt the thing to do was to discontinue,” AMC Grand Chief Ron Evans said yesterday.
The decision was made on Wednesday during the second day of the three-day AMC meeting held at Long Plain First Nation.
The 65 chiefs who were present voted unanimously in favour of the move.
The move was also endorsed by the grand chiefs that represent the northern and southern aboriginal groups of Manitoba.
There has been no progress since an agreement was signed in December of 1994 by the assembly and then-premier Jean Chretien’s government to negotiate the dismantling of Indian Affairs in Manitoba, Evans said.
The idea was its responsibilities would be turned over to aboriginal governments in the province, effectively repealing Indian Act as it applied to Manitoba bands.
These bands would then have the authority and responsibility to administer and deliver programs handled by Indian Affairs and other federal departments such as housing, education, capital projects, band administration and justice.
Evans said the 1994 agreement was a key component to overcoming many of the issues aboriginals face.
“The whole purpose was to turn things around,” he said. “We’re the poorest of the poor, have the highest suicide rates, poorest education .... We need to do this by ourselves and there should be an agreement to take us there.”
Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches said Ottawa still doesn’t understand First Nations can survive under their own governance. In the future, he wants his people to function in a society where they’re considered a nation, free from the control of Indian Affairs.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a nation within a nation,” Meeches said. “I love this country and I represent it, but I have to stay true to my culture.”
Evans said talks will not resume until the federal government takes the negotiations out of the hands of bureaucrats and initiates a government-to-government process with aboriginal chiefs.
The assembly plans to send a letter to Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice explaining its action, he said, adding he hopes Prentice will be willing to restart negotiations in a meaningful way.
Prentice wasn’t available for comment, but his office offered a brief comment on the announcement.
“It’s disappointing anytime negotiations are called off, however, we still believe negotiations are the only way we can achieve anything,” spokeswoman Deidra McCracken said yesterday. “We’re looking to reopen discussions.”
During a speech at the national conference in Calgary of Engineers Without Borders, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, challenged Canadians to address the third world conditions that exist in Canada in aboriginal communities. See the two news stories about the GG's visit to Alberta ...
Gov. Gen. calls for action on native poverty
Kerry Williamson email@example.com, CanWest News Service - Friday, January 26, 2007
CALGARY - Her eyes opened by her first state visit to developing countries in Africa as well as her travels in Canada, Governor General Michaelle Jean is urging Canadians to focus on their own developing world in the form of desperately poor aboriginal communities.
Speaking in Calgary on Thursday evening, the governor general said Canadians need to ''admit once and for all'' that urgent work needs to be done ''in our own backyard'' and not just in impoverished Third World countries.
'We must not forget that there is a developing world right here in Canada, there are developing communities right here in Canada, that we can no longer ignore,' said Jean, speaking at the Engineers Without Borders national conference.
'Let us admit once and for all that the developing world is closer than we think. There is urgent work that needs to be done in our own backyard.'
Jean - who visited Algeria, Mali, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco late last year - said she was struck by how similar social problems in those countries are to problems on First Nation reserves in this country.
She pointed to aboriginal communities which struggle to provide people with clean drinking water, have high rates of violence against women, have 'desperate' needs for adequate housing and health infrastructure, and a pressing need to improve education.
The Haitian-born former journalist also referred to the marginalization of young people on First Nation reserves.
'I saw situations and needs there that are identical to the situations and needs in Canada,' she said.
A report to the federal government last year deemed 21 reserves in Canada as high-risk health hazards because of their lack of safe drinking water. A further study, released by the International Housing Coalition and sponsored by the Canadian Real Estate Association last June, found that Aboriginal housing on reserve is seriously deficient.
Canadians must all help fight 'poverty and exclusion,' says governor general - JAMES STEVENSON - January 27, 2007
CALGARY (CP) - Canadians have a collective responsibility to combat the problems of "poverty and exclusion" and not simply rely on government help, the Governor General said Saturday.
Wrapping up a three-day tour of southern Alberta with a graduating class of Aboriginal teachers, Michaelle Jean said all Canadians must help the less fortunate in society.
"The more we are indifferent, the more we will fail some of our fellow citizens and we can't set an example to the world - and the world is looking at us as a country," Jean said Saturday in Calgary.
"I think that sometimes we actually could do more, but if we are indifferent, this will not happen."
Promoting and praising action on native and social issues was a key theme during the Governor General's second official visit to Alberta.
She spent nearly three hours Saturday afternoon listening to the stories of 11 teachers from the Siksika Nation, one hour east of Calgary, who had graduated from a University of Calgary program last year.
Unique to Canada, the Master of Teaching program combines aboriginal language, culture and teaching with mainstream educational practices.
"It's always wonderful to celebrate a good success story," Jean said afterwards.
"It's one thing to be aware of difficulties, of situations that are very troubling, but it is also so important to acknowledge the solutions brought to the problems by the people themselves."
Jean's message reverberates in Alberta where years of soaring oil and gas prices have brought both unprecedented wealth and soaring social problems including homelessness and spousal abuse.
But Jean said social problems that come from poverty and exclusion were not unique to Alberta, and Canadians had a shared responsibility to fix them.
Within hours of arriving in Calgary last Thursday, Jean told a packed room of young engineers gearing up to help promote development around the world that Canadians can no longer ignore the impoverished conditions in their own aboriginal communities.
"Let us admit, once and for all, that the developing world is closer than we think," she said.
The next day, she visited a family shelter on the Stoney-Nakoda First Nation west of Calgary, noting that Alberta had the worst record of violence against women in the entire country.
But again, rather than pointing fingers, Jean said she needed to celebrate the success of the "courageous" women living in the shelter within their own small community.
"They're really making sure that something is happening against that terrible situation of violence against women," she said.
Jean told teachers and leaders of the Siksika Nation on Saturday that she would use her position to "advise, inform and warn" the federal government of their situation.
Siksika Chief Adrian Stimson said Jean's visit was a very historical moment, noting there is a great need for visits like the one the Governor General made to the successful graduates.
"I think it's a very great thing that's happened here today."
Racism, ignorance and hate literature being defended by House of Commons lawyers as a politician privilege (see story below).
From CanWest News Service ...
Former MP loses bid to be immune from human rights law
Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service - January 24, 2007
OTTAWA - A former Saskatchewan MP, who is accused of racism against aboriginals for a ''householder'' brochure he sent to his constituents, is not exempt from a human rights investigation, says a federal judge.
Jim Pankiw, who was a member of the former Reform and Canadian Alliance parties before he was ousted for his controversial views, unsuccessfully tried to convince a judge that politicians should be able to express their views without being hauled before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Federal Court Judge Francois Lemieux concluded the concept of parliamentary privilege, which has traditionally been used to protect politicians from lawsuits for comments made in the House of Commons, does not extend to handouts distributed by MPs.
''There can be no doubt freedom of expression is the lifeblood or a democratic Constitution such as Canada's,'' wrote Lemieux. ''Having said this, there is always a balance to be achieved because there are limits to free political speech.''
Pankiw took the commission to court after it decided a human rights tribunal could examine nine complaints against him for distributing pamphlets appealing for a halt to ''Indian crime.'' He also condemned ''race-based hiring quotas for Indians'' and a Criminal Code provision that urges judges to use leniency when sentencing aboriginals.
Pankiw, now a Saskatoon chiropractor, said the court decision is a blow to free speech.
''It means that the Canadian Human Rights Commission can censure members of Parliament for speaking their mind about public policy, which means we no longer live in a free country,'' said Pankiw, the former MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt. ''If you can't get elected in and espouse your views, then we don't have free speech, do we? It makes a mockery of our Constitution.''
Pankiw was elected as a Reform Party member in the 1997 and its successor, the Canadian Alliance, in 2000. He joined other dissidents who defected to protest Stockwell Day's leadership, but when Stephen Harper assumed the helm, he did not invite Pankiw back on the grounds he was too confrontational.
The House of Commons, which supported Pankiw in the court challenge, filed an appeal on Friday in the Federal Court of Appeal.
''The question is whether it is appropriate in a democracy for a government agency to be judging the content of what members of Parliament say to their constituents,'' said Steven Chaplin, a lawyer for the House of Commons. ''In our view, the political process should deal with it, that's what elections are all about.''
He noted Pankiw was not re-elected as an independent candidate in the federal elections of 2004 and 2006, when he lost to the Conservatives.
Chaplin said the House of Commons draws the line at the free speech that amounts to criminal hate.
Ailsa Watkinson, one of Pankiw's former constituents who filed a human rights complaint, doesn't buy the argument that politicians should be able to speak their minds and then let the voters decide.
''To have in that position somebody disseminate information and to speak in a way that is promoting hatred, that perpetuates discrimination against a certain group of people, is an abuse of power and privilege,'' said Watkinson, a professor at University of Regina.
Parliamentary privilege has traditionally immunized politicians from lawsuits for comments in the House of Commons. It has also protected them from being called to testify while the House is in session.
There have been numerous attempts over the years to expand the scope of parliamentary privilege.
Lemieux, in his ruling, drew heavily on a 2005 decision in the Supreme Court of Canada which retained a narrow scope for parliamentary privilege in the case of Satnam Vaid and the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Gib Parent.
The House of Commons tried to claim privilege when Vaid tried to take his former boss to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging that he was the victim of a racist firing.
CanWest News Service