ABORIGINAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
2 Carlton Street, Suite 1517
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1J3
Forum on the Canadian Government's Refusal
to Honour Aboriginal and Treaty Rights
NOTES ON THE FORUM ON THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT'S REFUSAL
TO HONOUR ABORIGINAL AND TREATY RIGHTS
Wed. 27 October 1999, University of Toronto
If you require further information, please contact the Aboriginal rights Movement office at
877-475-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a brief summary of the themes covered by all the speakers:
* Court decisions are simply the recognition that the Crown signed treaties with FNs as one sovereign government to another - one purpose being to ensure FNs remained self-reliant and self-sufficient.
* Implementation of court decisions recognizing Native rights would return FNs to economic self-sufficiency.
* FNs have a right to ensure the environment (and resources) are preserved so they can enjoy the benefits of their aboriginal and treaty rights; that means a big say in how resources are managed.
* Delay of implementation of court decisions favouring Native rights is justice denied.
* The denial of Natives' section 35 rights is a denial of human rights, and it is akin to the denial of rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
* The denial of aboriginal and treaty rights by the non-implementation of court decisions (not to mention the treaties themselves) is in violation of international law.
* The UN has stated that the Crown's demand for extinguishment of rights before the signing of treaties or land claims settlements is a violation of international law.
Roger Obonsawin and the Aboriginal Rights Movement hosted a forum of representatives of First Nations from the west coast, the east coast, Quebec and Ontario. Each of the First Nations represented have won court recognition of their constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights to natural resources. However, provincial and federal governments have delayed their implementation.
JOAN PHILLIP, PENTICTON INDIAN BAND OF THE OKANAGAN NATION, BC
The Delgamuukw Supreme Court Decision (1997)
First Nations' attempts to assert the rights recognized by Delgamuukw have been thwarted by "economic racism". Fisheries officers remain brutal in their attempts to "manage" the fishery. Delgamuukw is fading into the BC Treaties Process-one of the reasons the process is losing support among First Nations. Okanagan First Nations lost their fish (and their economy) to dams, forcing them to trade with their Fraser River neighbours. The BC and federal governments are ignoring court victory after court victory since Delgamuukw.
KEVIN CHRISTMAS, NATURAL RESOURCES ADVISOR FOR THE MAWIW COUNCIL AND BIG COVE FN IN NB.
The Marshall Supreme Court Decision (1999)
Kevin C. worked on preparing for the Marshall decision. He described the decision as the "end of the beginning" of the "pilgrimage" to reclaim and implement rights. The decision is valuable to the psyche of Native people-a victory for poor people who were promised in a treaty they would never have to be dependent on the Crown. That treaty was a Peace and Friendship Treaty with a self-reliant FN.
The 1760 Treaty at issue in Marshall contains the idea of equivalency-Natives are to rule Natives. Only the Crown could purchase Native land and until it paid for the land, it could not assert its laws over the purchased territory.
Mi'kmaq must have control over conservation in order to ensure they can enjoy their rights.
In 1973, Fisheries Minister Romeo LeBlanc "created" the 200 mile limit and established a politically motivated licence scheme that served to discriminate against Natives. For example, licencees had to fish off the shore where they lived and had to have been full-time fishers for the previous 2 years. Non-Natives got loans from provincial loan boards who then said Natives were not eligible because Natives were a federal responsibility. But the feds had allocated all the fish and all the licences to non-Natives.
Now Dahliwal has the nerve, after the federal management scheme has helped ruin the fisheries, to tell the people of Burnt Church they are restricted to 600 traps and they can't fish when the non-Native season opens. There is a great deal of anger at the government among Natives-and at the Canadian public for sitting back, without comment, to watch this human rights travesty.
The Mi'kmaq are now going to Standard and Poor's to let the credit rating firm know that there is a burden on the resources that governments are using as collateral for its loans.
"No one has a right to manage the Mi'kmaq ... but we will safeguard natural resources in spite of your best efforts to destroy them."
DALE JONES, BAND COUNCILLOR, CHIPPEWAS OF NAWASH
The Jones-Nadjiwon decision (Ontario Court) 1993
In spite of a very clear court decision in 1993 that recognized the aboriginal and treaty rights of the Chippewas of Nawash and Saugeen to fish for trade and commerce, Ontario has delayed signing any fisheries management agreement that would settle issues arising from the court decision, such as jurisdiction, precise boundaries, who manages whom. the delay has effectively delayed the First Nations' enjoyment of their rights. Although Ontario has not been able to come to an agreement with the First Nations, it has been able to pass enabling legislation and sign agreements with non-Native organizations such as the Bait Association of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association.
The decision, and the delay in its implementation, helped fuel a backlash which, in 1995 saw vandalism to Native fishing tugs (one was sunk, then burned), the theft of thousands of metres of nets, and assaults on Natives.
Being in negotiations with the Province is like speaking to people with no eyes and no ears. We say the same things over and over and show them what we need and how we plan to manage ourselves, but they neither seem to hear us or to see us. Among the roadblocks at the table are a refusal on the part of the government to recognize Native jurisdiction and our rights to the environment. A racist lobby helps support the government's obstructionism.
NOTE: Ontario is planning to set up a "Fish and Wildlife Commission" in about a year's time that is expected to pass real management responsibilities to non-Native sports anglers and hunters. In a press release dated Feb. 27, 1999, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters clearly sees the Commission as serving anglers and hunters: "This must be a commission consisting of anglers and hunters representing the interests of anglers and hunters."
ANDREW ORKIN AND JOANNA BIRENBAUM, LEGAL COUNSEL TO THE GRAND COUNCIL OF THE CREES (EEYOU ISTCHEE) IN NORTHERN QUEBEC.
Canada's failure to respect aboriginal and treaty rights is a violation of international human rights.
The failure to respect and implement aboriginal and treaty rights is a violation of human rights-and of international law. Ted Moses (current Grand Chief) is in Europe continuing the Crees' international and UN work.
Government representatives like to tell international audiences that Native issues in Canada are complex. The only thing that is complex is the mechanism required to maintain a mechanism of dislocation, neglect, discrimination, exclusion and assimilation. Recent court decisions are cracking the machinery.
Canada is in violation of its fundamental human rights obligations. In 1976, Canada signed the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention of Social and Cultural Rights. These are treaties and signatories are obliged to review their adherence every 5 years. It has fallen to the NGO community to go to the UN to point out Canada's reports on its adherence to these treaties are not necessarily true. In our presentations, we have said that Canada has this odd legal notion that aboriginal and treaty rights can be extinguished and that this notion applies only to Native peoples. And, further, that Canada requires First Nations peoples' rights be extinguished when they enter into modern treaty processes.
For the UN, the notion of extinguishment is inconsistent with international law and a violation of human rights. The Crees have gathered data that show the poverty and exclusion of Native peoples are increasing in modern Canada.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have noted that few of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples have been implemented and that there has been "little or no progress" on addressing the indicators of housing, unemployment and suicides among young people.
The UN is asking, if the right to self-determination is a fundamental human right (as it is in international law), then how can it be extinguished?
When Canada says to Natives, "We will sign treaties with you in return for the extinguishment of your section 35 rights" it is like saying to women: "We will give you day care, but we will extinguish your equality under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Without rights to resources, the right to self-determination will fail. What is really at the heart of the treaties is a right to sustenance-this is what the UN has now nailed to Canada's door.
The UN has recommended the full implementation of the RCAP recommendations to reallocate resources.
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
University of Toronto Medical Services Auditorium,
1 King's College Circle
Hear about the facts behind the fishing and logging disputes in British Columbia and in the Atlantic region from the people directly affected.
Kevin Christmas, Natural Resources Advisor for the Mawiw Council
and Big Cove First Nation in New Brunswick
TOPIC: the Marshall Supreme Court Decision
Penticton Indian Band of the Okanagan Nation, British Columbia
TOPIC: The Delgamuukw Decision, Supreme Court of Canada
Andrew Orkin and Joanna Birenbaum, Legal Counsel to
the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeeyou Istchee) of Northern Quebec
TOPIC: Canada's failure to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights
as a violation of international human rights -
recent United Nations interventions by the James Bay Cree
Roger Obonsawin will facilitate the forum.
He is President of the OI Group of Companies who were
successful in their off-reserve tax case.
The Canadian government has been irresponsible in its policies towards Aboriginal peoples. They have mishandled the fallout from the Marshall and Delgamuukw Supreme Court Decisions. This has caused uncertainty amongst the general public and has led to a vicious backlash against Native people. These decisions oblige the government of Canada to recognize Native rights to resources in a way which will lead to Aboriginal economic self-sufficiency.
For more information contact Shawn Grey or Bob Crawford at 416-591-6622
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