Canadians Assess Aboriginal Claims, Protests
June 1, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in Canada believe their federal administration should be more mindful of the country’s Aboriginal communities, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 68 per cent of respondents want the government to speed-up existing Aboriginal land claims disputes.
In addition, 60 per cent of respondents want Ottawa to do more to deal with poverty in Aboriginal communities.
Still, Canadians are disappointed with the recent railway line blockades staged by Aboriginal protesters. 56 per cent of respondents believe these actions are unjustified, and 67 per cent agree with Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice, who suggested penalizing native leaders if federal money is used to plan blockades.
According to the 2001 census, more than 900,000 Aboriginal persons inhabit Canada. In the 1990s, the Canadian government established the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to assess the success or failure of past policies and develop recommendations for future programs and projects. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories give official status to Aboriginal languages.
In recent weeks, some Aboriginal groups have discussed staging a national day of action on Jun. 29, to protest the slow pace of negotiations on more than 800 native land claims.
On May 21, Prentice suggested that changes in the process would be implemented, saying, "There has been a complaint in this country for 60 years that the government of Canada serves as the defendant and the judge and the jury and the research body. (...) The government of Canada is in conflicting roles. And that’s something that we are trying to get to the heart of."
Last month, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty discussed the current state of affairs, saying, "Provinces and territories are caught up in peacekeeping missions, trying to settle a (land claims) dispute, a dispute that often predates Confederation between a federal government and a first nations community."
As you may know, Aboriginal protesters have blockaded railway lines in recent weeks, as part of ongoing land claims disputes. Do you think these actions are justified?
Justified 35%, Unjustified 56%, Not sure 9%
Do you agree or disagree with these statements?
The federal government should speed-up existing Aboriginal land claims disputes
68% Agree, 20% Disagree, 12% Not sure
Native leaders should be penalized if federal money is used to plan blockades
67% Agree, 17%, Disagree, 16% Not sure
The federal government should do more to deal with poverty in Aboriginal communities
60% Agree, 28% Disagree, 11% Not sure
Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,097 Canadian adults, conducted on May 22 and May 23, 2007. Margin of error is 3.0 per cent.
First Nations want cash for cellphone airspace
Paul Samyn, CanWest News Service - May 31, 2007
OTTAWA -- The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs wants to charge Manitoba Telecom Services for cellphone signals that pass through the airspace of the province's reserves.
Earlier this month, the province's chiefs passed a resolution calling on MTS to pay for using First Nations airspace, which the AMC believes is a resource no different than its land or waterways.
First Nations don't charge airlines for flying through their airspace, nor do they bill owners of satellites for orbiting above their reserves.
The chiefs want to share in the revenues for the "transmission of signals (inclusive of phones -- land/cellular, information technology access, etc.) that cross the land, water and air space of our reserves."
The AMC resolution may be a legal long shot, but also in its motion was another demand echoed by the Assembly of First Nations that may have a fighting chance: Ottawa is preparing to auction off more airwaves for cellphone coverage and the country's First Nations want a piece of the action to ensure that reserves get better cell phone service.
In its federal submission last week, the AFN said a lack of cell phone coverage for rural and remote First Nations is hurting the economic prospects of reserves.
"Some First Nations communities do not have equal opportunity to participate in the new economy because they do not have access to wireless service. . . . First Nations peoples and communities are disadvantaged from realizing the benefits of participating in the new economy," the AFN said.
University of Manitoba law professor Bryan Schwartz said there appears to be a clear role for the federal government to ensure First Nations interests and needs are reflected in its upcoming auction of additional wireless bandwidth.
AMC Grand Chief Ron Evans won't be commenting on the revenue-sharing proposal until he has had a chance to discuss the matter with MTS.
MTS officials could not be reached for comment.
(Winnipeg Free Press)