Undermining First Nations

Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail: National chief Shawn Atleo joins activists in call to action, June 21 2013

From Chief Shawn Atleo:
“First Nations are not waiting, and will pursue the changes required on First Nations’ terms.”
“And they [the federal government] are challenging us in the courts at every level even though we’ve won over 40 court cases.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way… It’s not what our collective ancestors thought we’d be doing at this juncture in our history.”

He also noted that among other grievances, the federal government continues to:

  • fight a case in court which is trying to right the wrongs of aboriginal child welfare funding
  • refuse to hold a public inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women
  • refuse to release documents on residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • produce multiple controversial changes in legislation without consulting the First Nations’ people who will be affected


CBC News: Atleo, Valcourt at odds over First Nations progress, June 15, 2013

Some of the views from Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations:
“[The Harper government’s approach] is top-down, unilateral, government-knows-best.”
“Since the apology [on residential schools], there has really been no real change in the approach.”
“Without a shift in the pattern of the relationship, we’re going to continue to see a cycle of conflict… It goes back to the days of the Oka crisis, of Gustafsen Lake, of Burnt Church… a gap that seems to continue to deepen between First Nations and Canada.”
“In some respects it seems that the government is really more interested in covering its own liabilities than working with First Nations on delivering real solutions.”


Michael Harris, iPolitics: The Harper government is radicalizing First Nations, Mar 21, 2013

Today’s methods of conquering Aboriginal territories are more subtle and sly than those of past centuries, but the effect is the same. The Harper government has been almost invisibly altering the language of First Nations laws, crafting them to get around Constitutional protections for aboriginal and treaty rights. Luckily though, there are keen observers within the native community who are not letting the erosive wording get by without notice. Those who previously counselled moderation are waking up to the fact of Harper’s stealthy ways. His actions are radicalizing communities across Canada. And the media world is aiding and abetting him: the printed and broadcast word is more often than not, dripping with racism. The courts with their refreshingly just decisions, have been the First Nations’ only recourse. But courts proceed at a snail’s pace. Harper and his partners, the deep-pocketed resource developers, are in a big hurry, not at all tolerant of snails. They are pulling out all stops to get their mighty machines churning up the ground, the courts be damned. So what’s to happen when people are insulted, deprived of their rights, and have resource-hungry monsters breathing down their necks?

Kent McNeil, The Star: Idle No More deserves our thanks, Jan 27, 2013

McNeil, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, presents details of how Bill C-45, the main target of the Idle No More movement, rides roughshod over Canada’s constitution, the basic rights of First Nations and the protection of lands and waters. At the very least, it is a recipe for unending court battles in the future. The conclusion: “We should all be grateful to Idle No More for exposing the Harper government’s lack of respect for aboriginal and treaty rights in pushing this Bill through Parliament. The undemocratic nature of an omnibus bill that amends numerous other statutes without adequate opportunity for debate and consideration by Parliament and its committees is bad enough, but the fact that the legislation probably violates Canada’s constitutional obligations to aboriginal peoples is even more disturbing.”

idlenomore thunderbay: Idle No More Rally, City Hall, Thunder Bay, Dec 17, 2012, (9 min)

A good short background account of the Idle No More movement, followed by the activities of the rally at City Hall, Thunder Bay. An impressive display of passion and determination.


CTV Winnipeg: First Nation leaders announce legal victory in court battle with feds over Kapyong site, Dec. 14, 2012

Federal Court Justice Roger Hughes ruled that the federal government was wrong to start selling part of a closed Manitoba military base without first consulting four First Nations which have outstanding land entitlements according to Treaty One, signed in 1871. He ordered the government to stop sale of the land until the communities are consulted. This ruling strengthens the concept of “duty to consult” and has implications for treaty interpretations across the country.

Christopher Moore, CBC Ideas: George MacMartin’s Big Canoe Trip, Dec 19, 2011 (with link to 54 min audio)

George MacMartin was the Ontario Commissioner assigned to accompany two federal commissioners to complete the signing of James Bay Treaty Nine with the “Indians” of northern Ontario. His recently discovered diary reveals that the verbal promises made to community leaders did not match the written words of the treaty. The implications are significant and have given hope to modern First Nations leaders. Readings from MacMartin’s diary and that of fellow commissioner, Duncan Campbell Scott, bring the story of the 1905 expedition to life, giving a clear picture of the colonial mentality. It differs only slightly in tone from what is exhibited today by resource-hungry industries and governments.