Press Release ...
Saskatchewan Proclaims Aboriginal History Month
June 11, 2007
The Province of Saskatchewan has proclaimed June 2007 as Aboriginal History Month in recognition of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people's contributions to Canada.
"Aboriginal people have made, and continue to make, innumerable contributions to Saskatchewan and Canadian history, culture and society," First Nations and Métis Relations Minister Maynard Sonntag said. "The Government of Saskatchewan is pleased to pay tribute to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people and their achievements by designating June 2007 as Aboriginal History Month."
Aboriginal History Month is an initiative of the Regina Aboriginal Professionals Association (RAPA), a non-profit organization with a mission to develop a network of people committed to fostering opportunities for Aboriginal people in education, employment and economic development initiatives within Regina. Aboriginal History Month is also being designated by the City of Regina.
"Raising the social conscience of our communities, bringing positive energy, positive thoughts and sharing our knowledge so that our youth can embrace their Aboriginal heritage to exude confidence are all major reasons for RAPA to lead this provincial and national campaign," RAPA President Joely BigEagle said. "We will continue our campaign to have the month of June designated as Aboriginal History Month by the federal government, and invite all Saskatchewan First Nations, educational institutions and businesses to organize or partner with RAPA for June Aboriginal events."
"It's quite fitting that this initiative originates in Saskatchewan in light of the enormous contributions Saskatchewan Aboriginal people make to areas like politics, the arts and sports," Sonntag said. "The Province is proud to be among the first in Canada to support this exciting initiative."
For more information about RAPA's events and its efforts gain national support for Aboriginal History Month, visit www.rapanetwork.ca.
For more information, contact:
First Nations and Métis Relations
Regina Aboriginal Professionals Association
AFN Press Release ...
National Chief Phil Fontaine Applauds today's Announcement by Prime Minister to Resolve Backlog of Specific Land Claims
OTTAWA, June 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said today's announcement by the Prime Minister is a positive response to what our people have advocated for decades, and it is a testament to the perseverance and dedication of our people.
"This is a historic announcement, and a day to applaud the federal government on its commitment to resolving the growing land claims backlog," said National Chief Phil Fontaine, in reaction to Prime Minister Harper's announcement on a proposed new process to resolve specific land claims.
"First Nations have been calling for a fair, independent, binding, and just approach to resolving specific land claims for decades now. In the coming days and over the summer, the AFN will be working with government to draft new Specific Claims legislation that will hopefully speed up the backlog of hundreds of unresolved treaty claims that have been the source of so much frustration among our people," said National Chief Fontaine. "The government's commitment to our full engagement in implementing this important initiative will be critical to its success."
"I want to point out that while today's announcement is a significant step in the right direction, it is only one piece in a much larger puzzle that also requires immediate action," stressed National Chief Fontaine. "Too many of our people and our communities are mired in poverty and despair. We must address these conditions.
"Land is part of the answer to building strong First Nations economies and strong First Nations citizens. This requires that we have the ability to take control of the decisions that affect our lives so we can reduce dependency and foster self-sufficiency. In doing so, we will build a stronger Canada for all Canadians.
"We invite everyone to join us on June 29 in our National Day of Action, education, and awareness," added the National Chief. "We invite you to walk with us, talk with us, learn more about First Nations, and take action to make poverty history."
/For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications, (613) 241-6789, ext. 229, cell: (613) 293-6106, email@example.com; Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor, Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789, ext. 243, cell: (613) 298-6382, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rene Pollett, Communications Specialist, (613) 241-6789, ext. 314, cell: (613) 295-2149, email@example.com/
New law expected to speed land claims
June 11, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce plans Tuesday to speed land claims, as native groups prepare for a national day of action on June 29.
Sources say Harper will propose a plan that follows the recommendations of the Senate standing committee on aboriginal peoples. The committee examined ways to streamline the settlement process, which now takes an average of 13 years.
One of the things it recommended was increased funding to speed the process. Sources with the Assembly of First Nations say Harper could put as much as $250 million a year toward settling the claims — more money than the assembly had hoped for.
Also expected is legislation, to be co-written with the national AFN, outlining how to settle the outstanding claims.
A new, independent agency is expected to be established to settle some of the claims.
Currently, the Indian Claims Commission investigates treaty violations, but it cannot make binding rulings. Critics have long called for an independent land claims process with more money and staff to settle cases.
There are more than 800 outstanding specific land claims in Canada, according to the commission, which has a staff of 51 people and had an annual budget of $6.9 million in the fiscal year 2005-2006.
The Assembly of First Nations has said it would take about 130 years to resolve the outstanding claims at the current pace of negotiations.
The assembly has called for a national day of action on June 29 to draw attention to outstanding land claims, and to the racism and poverty faced by First Nations communities.
While Phil Fontaine, the head of the AFN, has always said he prefers peaceful diplomacy, Chief Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba has threatened to block railway lines running through his community on the day of action.
Harper aims to speed land claim settlements
SUE BAILEY - Canadian Press
June 11, 2007
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce plans to speed land claims as native groups prepare for a potentially tense day of action June 29.
Sources say Mr. Harper will propose a bill Tuesday to streamline the settlement process, a discredited system that now takes an average of 13 years.
But real results could be months away, if they come at all.
The legislation, to be co-written with the national Assembly of First Nations, won't be introduced in the Commons until the fall. It would have to pass a fractious and unstable Parliament before committing any new money for specific land-claims research or compensation.
Mr. Harper is also expected to support giving more power to the Indian Claims Commission, which investigates treaty violations but can't make binding rulings. And native leaders will be watching to what extent the bill may cap settlement amounts or impose deadlines for filing claims.
Critics have long called for a truly independent land claims process with more money and staff to settle cases. Ottawa has until now acted as defendant, judge and jury in disputes that have overstretched bureaucratic and native resources.
Native frustration has flared over the past year, prompting fiery barricades and sometimes ugly conflict. Demonstrations, including rail blockades, are planned June 29 by leaders who have taken a wait-and-see attitude toward federal promises of action. The federal government has itself estimated that it owes native bands billions of dollars for breached or unfulfilled treaties.
“Deferring payment of this liability, while land development continues and interest compounds, can only increase the ultimate financial cost of settlements,” Michael Coyle, a law professor at University of Western Ontario, testified last fall before a Senate committee studying the process.
Mr. Harper should support an independent body that can enforce timelines in often protracted negotiations, Prof. Coyle said Monday in an interview Monday. That arm's-length arbiter must also be able to legally rule on impasses arising over the validity of a claim or how much is owed.
“I'm pleased they're going to be working with the Assembly of First Nations,” Prof. Coyle added. “It will have a much better chance of succeeding if first nations have had a real role to play in developing the process.”
Basic funding for settlements is set at about $159-million this fiscal year. An exhaustive Senate committee report this year urged the minority Conservative government to commit at least $250-million annually. The alternative, it warned, is the eruption of more nasty clashes such as the one that pitted native against non-native in Caledonia, Ont., last year over a housing development.
Frustration is once again building in the Southwestern Ontario community as complex talks drag on.
Farther east, a rail blockade in April by a splinter group of Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte paralyzed passenger and freight traffic between Toronto and Montreal. The protest, near Deseronto, Ont., wreaked commuter havoc for just over a day until it was peacefully ended.
Demonstrators blamed the snail's pace of compensation talks and the use of a quarry on disputed land. They have promised more economic disruption.
There are more than 800 unsolved claims in a growing “inventory” of cases across much of Canada, federal officials say. Of those, just 120 have made it to the active negotiation stage.
The number of bottlenecked claims is actually much larger, NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder says.
“If they don't have any resources to [start assessing them], they're not counting them in the backlog.”
Mr. Crowder sees the timing of Tuesday's announcement as a tepid bid to defuse the potential for angry confrontation on June 29.
“I think the government has such a poor track record on Indian and northern affairs that it has to put forward something that looks like a win.”
Liberal native affairs critic Anita Neville said the Conservative government has achieved one thing: “They've united aboriginal leadership across the country – against this government.
“It's been a very sad 16 months for aboriginal people,” she said of the gutting of the $5-billion Kelowna accord to lift native living standards.