SPOTLIGHT ON Aboriginal Rights
The First Nations Coalition for Inherent Rights Continues Strenuous Opposition to Canada's First Nations Governance Initiative. The Coalition's position is reinforced given that the recent budget announcement demonstrates Minister Nault's lack of ability and Cabinet mandate, to provide real commitment to the First Nations agenda on Inherent Right and Treaty and the Throne Speech promises made by the Prime Minister of Canada. First Nations leadership across Canada are demonstrating their unity for the First Nations Rights-Based Agenda by joining together in a Coalition. The Nault Initiative, from all respects, does not support Inherent Rights and based on a recent legal opinion, may jeopardize
First Nations rights. The Initiative dishonors the Crown.
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) in unison with the Interior Alliance, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs constitute the ever-growing coalition of allied organizations of the First Nations Coalition for Inherent Rights. The UBCIC will maintain its active opposition to the First Nations Governance Initiative (FNG). It is our view that the Coalition for Inherent Rights is instrumental in our continued opposition to Minister Nault’s prescribed FNG process.
I firmly believe that the unilateral action of Minister Nault does not deal with the real issues of First Nation governance. The matters of leadership accountability, election reform and our communities’ legal status are fundamentals of our inherent right to self-determination. Specifically, if Minister Nault rams through the FNG and makes amendments to the Indian Act, our right to self-government will be dangerously eroded. In order to exercise our inherent right to self-determination, we must have true self-government. Such rights are protected by Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution Act, been affirmed in court decisions like Delgamuuk’w and international covenants like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UBCIC reiterates its full support for the Assembly of First Nations resolution passed at the December 4-6, Confederacy of Nations Meeting in Ottawa calling for the outright rejection of the FNG process. The Confederacy of Nations resolution resolutely and overwhelmingly reaffirms the “First Nations’ complete and unequivocal rejection of Minister Nault’s First Nation Governance Initiative.”
The UBCIC will continue to vigorously defend our rights from any legislative attempt to restrict and redefine our relationship with the Government of Canada. Nault’s poorly orchestrated FNG must be replaced with a process based on good faith and with a credible form of consultation involving all First Nations people. Such unilateral, government sponsored initiatives only continue to reveal the federal government’s archaic approach to dealing with First Nations of this land.
The federal budget announced on December 10th shows that the Minister Nault’s ministerial support in relation to the Throne Speech social and economic commitments to First Nations is practically non-existent. Minister Nault described the $185 million committed in the budget for early childhood education and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as a “down payment” on the government’s commitments to First Nations. Minister Nault is right to point out that there is still a large amount left owing to communities but programme funding is a very shortsighted approach to the issues at hand.
The UBCIC confirms a rights-based approach taken by our national organization, the Assembly of First Nations, is the explicit response needed to the FNG Initiative. We will support the mandate given to National Chief Matthew Coon Come at the AFN Confederacy of Nations meeting. We look forward to the Special Assembly in February 2002 and are committed to the creation of an alternative process to the federal government’s FNG initiative.
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STATEMENT BY CHIEF ARTHUR MANUEL,
As a member of the First Nations Coalition for Inherent Rights, we join with Ontario Vice-Chief Charles Fox in confirming our ongoing opposition to Canada’s ill conceived “First Nations Governance” (FNG) Initiative, which is led by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Robert Nault.
Our position is that the subjects of accountability, leadership selection and our legal status are internal core areas of our peoples’ inherent right to self-determination and self-government, which are now protected by section 35 of Canada’s constitution.
Any attempt by Canada to use the Indian Act as a basis for current or future First Nation-Crown relations will be viewed by us not only as a violation to our constitutionally protected rights, but a continuation of past colonialism and oppression. We will not allow a return to the past relationship the Indian Act represents.
Our Chiefs and delegates support the recent decision by the Assembly of First Nations, Confederacy of Nations, to reject the Nault FNG initiative.
The federal budget announced on December 10, 2001 has confirmed to us that the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Robert Nault has little, if any, influence with regards to fulfilling Canada’s Throne Speech commitments to improve the social and economic conditions of Aboriginal peoples.
While we recognize the importance and need for the $185 million committed for Aboriginal Headstart, Early Childhood Development and addressing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the federal budget fell far short of the Prime Minister’s commitments in response to the Throne Speech.
We want a rights-based approach taken by our national organization, the Assembly of First Nations, and we intend to take an active role in ensuring our National Chief, fulfills the national mandate he was given by the AFN Confederacy of Nations to hold a Special Assembly in February 2002 to set out our alternative to the federal government’s FNG initiative.
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(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, December 7, 2001) Representatives of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' member communities helped to defeat the federal government's "First Nations' Governance" (FNG) Initiative, during a national meeting of First Nations held in Ottawa, December 4-6, 2001.
The UBCIC members joined with others to form the "First Nations Coalition for Inherent Rights". The "coalition" of First Nations from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec was instrumental in rejecting the federal Minister of Indian Affairs proposed FNG Initiative.
The Assembly of First Nations Confederacy also adopted a resolution calling for Nault's resignation, or for the Prime Minister to remove him.
As expected, following the national Assembly of First Nations meeting, Robert Nault, has already stated he intends to ignore the majority decision of the democratically elected leadership of First Nations across Canada, and work with those First Nations who will support him. Minister Nault has also reportedly said: "I think it's high time that the (AFN) restructure itself so it can work with the government of Canada".
It is because of Nault's "arrogant, confrontational and disrespectful" attitude and his "divide and rule" approach that the AFN Confederacy meeting voted for his resignation.
Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, stated today "we have prepared information materials alerting all First Nations people about the threat to our inherent right of self-determination, which Bob Nault and his pre-ordained colonial-style legislation represents.
We are encouraging all First Nations to continue to oppose the federal government's proposed FNG legislation using all the tools available at our disposal.
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