[Witness speaks in Cree]
I'd like your translators to translate that, please.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson: My name is Sheila North Wilson from the Bunibonibee Cree Nation, and I also have family in Pimicikamak Cree Nation. I'm the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation. Welcome to Treaty No. 1 territory.
I acknowledge my colleagues, Chief Nelson Genaille from the Sapotaweyak; Chief Jim Bear, who will be here shortly; as well as Grand Chief Arlen Dumas from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; and all of you. It's nice to see everyone.
Good morning, again. On behalf of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, I welcome you as committee members representing the three federal parties to Treaty No. 1 territory and Winnipeg. Winnipeg, of course, is the location of the MKO suboffice and home to many off-reserve MKO community members.
As I said in Cree, my name is Sheila North Wilson. Once again, thank you for the invitation to address you on the specific claims and comprehensive claims agreements policies of the federal government from the MKO perspective. Grand Chief Dumas will give you an overall perspective. Chief Genaille will be more more specific to TLEC, and I'll give you a little bit of the northern perspective, around the Northern Flood Agreement specifically.
To give you further background on Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, our head office is located in the heart of northern Manitoba, in the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, in the Treaty No. 5 territory, just north of Thompson in northern Manitoba. MKO Inc. is the secretariat of 30 northern Manitoba first nations, which together make up a population of about 73,000 people: Oji-Cree, Cree, and Dene.
As the grand chief, I'm elected to advance the interests and priorities of MKO rights holders in all socio-economic and political areas, including health, education, and treaty rights, and to advocate to all levels of government on behalf of northern Manitoba leadership. MKO chiefs and assembly have priorities to protect the rights of women and children, to ensure sustainability of our communities, to transfer indigenous knowledge and practices, and to ensure that our communities continue to be the basis of our identities and bastions of indigenous language and cultures in northern Manitoba.
My goal in appearing in front of the committee is to support my fellow leaders and our technicians in providing a common message to the committee on specific and comprehensive claims as the policy applies to Manitoba.
As you have heard and will hear, the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba has been mandated to act on behalf of the 21 entitlement first nations, many of which are located in the MKO territory. MKO encompasses close to two-thirds of Manitoba.
In negotiations with the federal and provincial governments, it is a table that came out of the Manitoba framework agreement that was signed in 1997, so it is a process that is specific to Manitoba, and parallel to the federal specific claims and comprehensive claims agreements policies. Our treaties help to define the MKO communities and peoples. Therefore, TLEC and its administrative office are close partners with three of the Manitoba PTOs—KO, SCO and AMC—in our collective efforts to advance treaty rights of Manitoba first nations.
The first point I'd like to make is that although we have the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee and the specific claims process, and the process has led to urban economic development zones for some MKO communities, I can't see the process, as it stands, meaningfully increasing the total reserve lands of first nations in Manitoba or across the country. That would be a pre-requirement and central to strong indigenous economies and self-determining communities.
Our land south of the 60th parallel, as described in section 91 of the 1867 BNA, amounts to approximately 2% of the total land mass of Canada. That means that 99.8% of the land mass of Canada is in the hands of the crown and the right of Canada—provincial, territorial, and private ownership. In Manitoba, the crown and the private land currently available to entitlement first nations is approximately 1.1 million acres. This is really insignificant and will not make much of a difference in the big picture of first nations land distribution when fully completed.
Even after the TLE, which you have heard has been slow and arduous, has played out and all of the identified treaty entitlement lands have been transferred, Canada and private ownership will continue to hold 99% of the ancestral homelands of indigenous people, comprehensive claims, self-government, and modern treaties notwithstanding.
On the Northern Flood Agreement of 1977, I would like to bring to the attention of the committee the unfulfilled promises of the Northern Flood Agreement, broken promises that continue to be at the root of economic and social problems in some of the larger MKO communities 40 years after it was signed.
The following is from the aboriginal justice inquiry:
||The Northern Flood Agreement was signed by Canada, Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Northern Flood Committee representing the five First Nations (Nelson House, Norway House, Cross Lake, Split Lake and York Factory) whose reserve lands were to be flooded by the major hydro-electric projects planned. The agreement provided for an exchange of four acres for each acre flooded, the expansion and protection of wildlife harvesting rights, five million dollars to be paid over five years to support economic development projects on the reserves and promises of employment opportunities. The agreement was also to deal with any adverse effects to the "lands, pursuits, activities and lifestyles of reserve residents." The five First Nations were guaranteed a role in future resource development as well as in wildlife management and environmental protection. Certain water level guarantees were made and Manitoba Hydro generally accepted responsibility for any negative consequences that might emanate from the flooding. In return, Hydro obtained the right to flood reserve lands as part of the Churchill Diversion Project. Disputes over any adverse effects were to be settled by arbitration....
||Manitoba Hydro obtained what it wanted as it proceeded with this massive project. The reaction from Aboriginal people has been far from positive.
That's from the AJI, and I'd like to remind everyone again that close to 80% of the energy that Manitoba Hydro produces comes from this region, from MKO territory. At the time, the AJI recommended that the governments of Manitoba and Canada recognize the NFA as a treaty, honour and properly implement the NFA's terms, and take appropriate measures to ensure that equivalent rights are granted by the agreement to the other aboriginal people affected by flooding. The AJI also recommended that a moratorium be placed on major natural resource development projects, unless and until agreements or treaties are reached with aboriginal people in the region who might be negatively impacted by such projects, in order to respect their aboriginal treaty rights in the territory concerned.
On December 15, 2000, the then Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Eric Robinson, made a ministerial statement in the legislative assembly concerning the NFA. He noted that it was of immediate importance to the government to address the devastating consequences of the flooding of first nations lands for hydro development. In that statement, he also stated that the Government of Manitoba recognized that the NFA is a modern-day treaty and expressed the government's commitment to honour and properly implement the terms of the NFA as recommended by the commissioners of the aboriginal justice inquiry in 1991. The minister went on to note that the government acknowledged that comprehensive implementation agreements had been signed with four of the five NFA first nations as a method of addressing and implementing the terms of the NFA.
Canada has legal obligations under the NFA, and had, for example, previously announced the conversion of reserve lands of 10,281 acres of provincial crown land for the benefit of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation under the First Nations 1996 Comprehensive Northern Flood Agreement Implementation Agreement.
However, compensation for flooded reserve lands has not been completed by Canada, Manitoba, and Manitoba Hydro under the comprehensive NFA implementation agreements developed and currently in place with impacted first nations. Our communities impacted by hydro development continue to be some of the poorest first nations communities in all of Canada. This is unacceptable in light of the historical and modern age treaties such as the Northern Flood Agreement.
My name is Arlen Dumas and I am Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
It's important to acknowledge the land of what is currently referred to as the province of Manitoba, which is the ancestral and sovereign territories of the Anishinabe, Cree, Dakota, Dene, and Oji-Cree nations.
I just want to express that there is limited time to properly prepare for such significant work. No funding or research supports were provided to help us present today.
All first nations in Canada should be directly engaged in matters such as this, which are fundamental to our land rights. Others will speak specifically to treaty land entitlement issues in Manitoba and focus on specific and comprehensive land claims policies.
Current policies are not consistent with first nations', domestic, or international laws. Canada is not acting in good faith when it comes to issues of first nations' lands. Policies cannot be fixed through minor amendments and will require a fundamental overhaul and replacement.
The problems with specific claims and comprehensive claims policies are based on the assumption of crown sovereignty and title. Canadian laws and policies make the assumption of Canadian sovereignty over our territories. This requires first nations to make claims to Canada versus the other way around.
We dispute Canada's claim of sovereignty over our lands, outright. We assert that our sovereignty remains intact and that treaties are a recognition of indigenous nationhood and sovereignty.
Number two is that aboriginal title of land is not a foundation of either policy. There is no doubt on the historical record that these lands are first nations' lands. Canada has recognized this many times over through various land acknowledgements. Federal policies have not kept up with Canada's own court cases confirming aboriginal title. There is no process to protect first nations' lands and resources before or during negotiations.
Number three concerns the inherent conflict in the review and decision-making process. Current processes use Canada's laws, policies, lawyers, judges, courts, and enforcement mechanisms, and this is profoundly unbalanced. The Specific Claims Tribunal, heralded as independent, still uses Canada's laws, judges and courts without equal review, decision-making and inclusion of first nations' laws and processes.
Number four is that the return of land is not a central tenet of either process. Land is central to our identity, culture, self-sufficiency, economic well-being, and nation building. All lands in Canada are rightfully owned by first nations and Inuit. Failure to make land a central feature of these policies is a fundamental flaw.
Number five concerns presumption of land surrenders for first nations' lands covered by treaties. Treaties throughout Canada are very significant. Numbered treaties are wrongly treated as land-surrendered treaties, which does not correspond with first nations' laws or understanding. Canada imposes its own interpretation of numbered treaties, which acts as a significant limitation on negotiations.
Number six is in regard to the extinguishment under the guise of certainty, which violates first nations', domestic, international, and normal laws. Extinguishment of rights is not consistent with first nations' laws, jurisdictions, or decision-making processes that protect rights of past, current, and future generations. UNDRIP and other international declarations, conventions, treaties, and laws are centred on the protection and observance of indigenous land and resource rights, not their extinguishment. Extinguishment for money is a bullying tactic to force impoverished first nations into prejudicial settlements.
Number seven is that policies focus on Canadian objectives and do not include first nations' objectives. Current policies focus on Canada's desire for extinguishment of our rights; the protection of the historical uses of our lands and resources by settlers regardless of its illegality or impact on first nations; and the desire of various industries, primarily large corporations involved in the extractive industries, to profit from our lands and resources. Nowhere in the policy does it mention protection and enforcement of first nations' rights to lands and resources, the primacy of our rights, or our right to be self-determining and self-sustaining within our territories.
Number eight is that policies do not take into account the profoundly unequal bargaining position of the parties. Negotiations can take many years, sometimes decades, but only Canada and private industries benefit from our lands and resources in the interim.
Interests of third parties are given priority over pre-existing and constitutionally protected first nation land rights. Limited funding in the way of loans prejudices the process by making one party indebted to the other and under pressure to reach a settlement, no matter how unjust. Canada does not act in good faith during these land settlement negotiations. The federal government is frustrating land negotiations in the additions to reserve process here in Manitoba through the treaty land entitlement process, by using other aboriginal groups, namely the Métis, to interfere with first nations land rights. Canada prioritizes the profits of corporations and industries over the constitutional rights of first nations. Canada uses its policies, forces, and military to impose its will on first nations with regard to land ownership and use. Canada adopts rigid negotiating mandates and positions.
Dispute-resolution mechanisms are not accessible to many first nations. The only alternative to prejudicial and unequal land claim negotiations is the courts. The courts are heavily biased towards Canadian laws, interests, and perspectives. Court cases are lengthy—lasting upwards of 25 years—and expensive—costing millions of dollars—and offer little substantive protections for our lands and resources in the meantime. Any acts we take to use our land in the interim are often met with court-imposed sanctions or arrests.
Here are some of the preliminary recommendations.
One, a new joint land resolution process must be negotiated directly between Canada and the rights holders, first nations, i.e., how they choose to be represented by first nation leaders, experts, and/or representative groups.
Two, a new policy must be based on the recognition and protection of aboriginal title with the return of lands and resources as the central feature.
Three, any new mechanisms must be joint processes that include first nations' authorities, laws, policies, and dispute resolutions, decision-making, and appeals.
Four, all federally imposed limitations on negotiations must be removed, including those in relation to land transfers and compensation for past and ongoing loss of use.
Five, any new policy must be consistent with international laws, including UNDRIP, and specifically including the legal principle of free, prior, and informed consent for all activities on first nations lands before, during, and after negotiations.
Six, an extensive and comprehensive joint review of all federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal laws, policies, regulations, bylaws, and other processes must be carried out to determine their compliance with first nations' domestic and international law-making processes in relation to first nations land and resources rights. This would include a comprehensive review of TLE processes to address ongoing issues of prejudices towards first nations in the additions to reserve process
Seven, significant funding and related supports must be provided for first nations to engage in research, legal reviews, consultations related to our lands, and resource interests.
[Witness speaks in Cree]
In plain English language, I welcome you to our traditional territory, the Cree territory. It really goes through our history, the Cree Anishinabek. They travelled through there, and the Ojibways later on. We have never seen Métis here. As we walk across Turtle Island.... You know, I'm a chief, which was formerly a headman back when treaties were signed in the time of my grandfather, so I like to welcome the grandchildren of the settlers here. I acknowledge you, every one of you.
I find it very amusing that I have to explain to you the comprehensive claims and the negotiations I go through and understanding treaties when, in turn, when you seek office, what is your intent in the first place? Is it under Canada, or is it under the settler? When I look at the settler, he only came here to farm, the dust of a plow. As my grandfather said to my mom, he was actually given the net, the shells, the oxen to provide a new way of life, to live this new way of life.
When I look at specific claims under TARR, an organization which is to research what was signed in the first place. We had economic opportunity under TLE, and were denied. Why is that? Why do we need to be so scared that we deny first nations their economic opportunity?
I cannot sell our furs any more to make a living, so I have to change and adapt. This past weekend we took our children out into the forest and hunted moose. Back in 2012 and 2013, I had to take an industry to court, and the Manitoba Government to court, because of what was promised in treaties. From my understanding the crown land was there for my use and benefit, so when government gives it to a proponent like an industry, like Manitoba Hydro, where does my land go?
Something that was taught to me by my mom and my grandfather was that when we go to pray, let's not bow our heads down and shut our eyes. Let's learn from the first time, because when we opened our eyes, our land was gone. So I take these key messages to my heart, what's left to me to understand. On negotiations and understanding specific claims, TLE has 1.1 million acres of unfinished treaty business. My property, in the town of Swan River, is 0.114 acres. It provides $6 million gross. That's the economy of Swan River. I get 10% of that. I still can't afford 275 houses for my community. That sits idle for eight years. Six times eight is $48 million. Are you prepared to give me $48 million so I can provide adequate housing for my community? I don't think so.
Are you willing to negotiate extractions from our territory of gravel, limestone, or gold? Right now, how much land does Canada have? That's your first question. You don't have any land. What did Canada do in 1930? They gave everything to the provinces of Canada. Did you ask me, grandson of a headman, to do that? No, you didn't.
So I find it very hard to explain what you need to know. What do you want to know? Do you want to know the truth or do you want me to draft up something that in your language you'll understand? Number one is accountability. We've been accountable to our people. Whenever we are not accountable, we get removed. Before the Indian Act, my grandfather was a headman until he passed on. That was our history. We were specifically given the task of being the leadership in our community and providing for our membership. I go to understand. In my community, it was the spiritual people who were in power, because they would provide for their community members.
Then when you look at specific claims, I could give you specific examples, like “Justice at Last”. Are they implemented? They're not even implemented. When states establish an inherent conjunction with indigenous people, it's not even transparent. It's not even a transparent process, because this is basically a boxing ring. If we want to box, I have to do a protest to stop you. That's what we have to do.
Under “Justice at Last”, the final arbitrator chooses to accept or reject the claim and they negotiate, but at the same time that's under their terms, which are basically Canada's terms. Following the five-year review, and developing the recommendations, nothing has happened, because you choose to turn a blind eye. There's a private member's bill that I fully support, but I don't have that power. You have that power to support. How come you do not wish to support? That's the question that you should ask yourself. Is that going to be truly justice at last when that happens?
Right now, there's a “no hunting moose” ban in my territory, but I do continue to hunt and take moose because I have to provide for my membership, for my people, because that was promised in treaties. When we asked for a joint process—rights holders, domestic, international—you failed to remember that you have to ask the real rights holders if you can come to our territory, if you can do business in our territory. That is what your first elders asked when they first came here. As soon as treaties were signed, where did the treaties go? You have to ask yourself that question. Where did the treaties go? I understand my treaty rights, but I also understand my indigenous rights to the land itself. We, as indigenous people, are married to the land. We live off the land and we need that land, but in today's day and age, it's for economic opportunity. I just bought another piece of property from the Town of Swan River. It's an old derelict building. Guess who had to clean it up? We had to. We had to get a company to clean it all up and remove the old building. We signed a municipal services development agreement; we made an agreement to set up business. This one is subject to make me $13 million for my community and that's gross. That's $19 million for these two properties that don't even add up to an acre yet. When you look at Canada and the extraction of resource across Canada, what is that dollar amount? What is the actual amount owed to the first nations, if not even an acre has given my community possibly $20 million?
Then we have this big green book here. In 1997, it was signed on May 29. After 20 years, we're not even halfway done. The Liberal government promised 10 years to conclude and finish this business.
How can we, when 140 years later we're still trying to finish the business of treaties that were signed? I just came back from Treaty 4 territory, where we were celebrating our annual Treaty 4 gathering. My people still go to Treaty 4 land in Fort Qu'Appelle, because that's where we come from. We are Plains Cree. When the superintendent said, “This is where you're going to live. We'll set aside 100 acres for you to live”, but my grandfather understood that the whole territory under Treaty 4 was what we were supposed to live off.
I think we'd have to go line by line to do that, but I think in the overall picture there are some gaps. We do see some benefits to the communities, for instance when you go through some place like Nisichawayasihk, where the most recent building they have is the interpretative centre. You walk in and you see it looks like a beautiful museum, a northern style museum. It's very modern, very informative.
Also with that building, they house the community kitchens, where hunters from the community come and they bring there what they hunt and fish, and then it's shared equally with the community or the people who want it.
When our people and our leaders and our technicians in this day and age find a way to implement those kinds of initiatives, they fully maximize them. But, for instance, one part of the agreement is to have youth centres in every community, the ones that are affected by the MFA, but we don't have such buildings.
We hear about the suicide rates that came out recently from Pimicikamak, which created a national dialogue on suicide. One of the most basic things they have asked for is a youth building for them to have as their own, so that they can do their own activities. That was part of the MFA that asked for and agreed upon, and it still hasn't been implemented.
We would have to look line by line at the items that were promised and that have not been upheld, but of course those don't include all the other ones that are not part of the MFA. For example, in Shamattawa, they're having trouble with the schooling and finding teachers to come there. I think if there were a better implementation of their treaty rights, we would see a different situation there.
That's one of the extreme examples but, of course, our other 30 communities have different perspectives and rights to the land and opportunities that they are being denied continuously.
[Member speaks in Cree ]
I think all of you talked about the policies and about how these policies do not necessarily respond to the challenges that we have, either in treaty implementation or in terms of the other issues that we face as first nations.
I have to tell you first, Nelson, that when you welcomed the grandchildren of the settlers, I did not feel welcome at all.
Sheila, when you talked about broken promises, even if I said to you, “Welcome, to the club,” it would be a bad joke.
I just want to acknowledge those two things first.
I'll ask the question that Gary asked, but from a different perspective.
You all talked about UNDRIP and the importance of having the UN declaration as a framework for moving forward in this country. I think we all agree, and I thank you for your full support for my private member's bill. That's exactly what Bill intends to do. Whatever we work on in the future, whether it's on treaty implementation or land recognition or rights recognition and so on, those need to be the minimum standards that we will have to use moving forward.
I'll ask my question in the opposite way from how Gary did.
Do we therefore need a policy for all of these things we are discussing today, or would it be simpler to use an instrument like the UN declaration or the jurisprudence that stems from the Supreme Court of Canada?
There are a lot of decisions that respond to a lot of the challenges that we're talking about, so is there a need for a policy? That is perhaps the first question I want to ask all three of you.
[Witness speaks in Cree]
I could hear and understand your different dialect, and I was very excited about that, because I was listening very closely. This is another educational moment here: we have different dialects of Cree. All four of us speak Cree, but we all have different dialects, and I have to listen particularly hard to Romeo Saganash.
Thank you for the welcome, and thank you for being here and representing Cree people at this committee.
Your bill, Bill is necessary because if that's what the governments need to find a way to practicalize the treaties, then let it be. I think that's what it is for a lot of us. If the treaties are too broad, too basic, or too vague, then have a tool like UNDRIP to set the process. I see hope in this. I think we have to fully implement it to start working at these deeper issues that are outstanding, and ultimately bring our people up to a modern day civilization where we're self-reliant. Thank you for that. I do believe that's the avenue we need to follow to take us to that next level.
Back then, we needed a process like that. Our people say that when the treaty-making process was happening, and even recently in the seventies with the MFA, our people weren't in the mindset of negotiating to those specifics, and a lot of it was in good faith. Grand Chief Dumas talks about our kindness all the time, and that's basically what our ancestors were going on. It is the basic human ability to tell the truth, to be kind, and to actually live up to your word. That's what our ancestors relied upon, but now we know how far that's taken us, and that broken relationship needs to be mended. We can't just go on basic human abilities. We have to have something like UNDRIP to take us to the next level.
Thank you very much, and welcome to Treaty 1 territory. I would have preferred the forum to be held on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation or even Sandy Bay First Nation. However, I was one of the signatories to the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement in 1997, and I was also first chair of treaty land entitlement in 1977. I wear this ring very proudly, but I'd feel a lot better if we reached conclusion one of these days soon.
Our nationhood, of course, consists of sovereignty and self-determination through our land and borders, our citizens, our language, our cultural identity, our governing bodies, our laws, our judicial system, and an economic base. The loss of our land is the main focus through the claims process, but it doesn't consider the loss of our governance, the loss of our law, our ability, our language, our identity, our culture, our spirituality, and our economic base of hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering. The model should have been the Selkirk Treaty of 1817. It conforms to the spirit of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which provided the constitutional framework for indigenous land entitlement and has been referred to as Canada's Indian Magna Carta.
The crown needs to honour the visionary leadership and friendship such as that of Chief Peguis and Lord Selkirk that led to the signing of the 1817 treaty. The settler communities have failed to honour the full spirit and intent of the subsequent treaties. In agreeing to its terms, Chief Peguis and Lord Selkirk promoted peace, order, and a spirit of mutual assistance and co-operation, which is at the foundation of Manitoba's unique history. At the signing, Chief Peguis allotted a certain area for the settlers; the rest was ours, and our laws were to continue to prevail.
However, in August 1871, our nation became signatory to Treaty No.1. With this signing, the promise was made that the consensus would be carried out and the land would be allocated to our nation on a per capita basis, 160 acres per family of five. Our nation is located only 40 minutes from Fort Garry, where our ancestors signed Treaty No.1. With the initial land allocation, our nation was allocated 13,184 acres, and a shortfall of more than double the land base our nation had been entitled to be allocated was created.
Today, only 30% can be readily developed, and the remainder is marsh area. Our nation, along with half of the Indian bands in Manitoba, became signatory to the 1997 Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement in September 1998. Through this framework agreement, Brokenhead became entitled to receive an additional 14,481 acres to address the shortfall from 127 years prior. We have yet to obtain and convert over 13,000 acres to reserve status, and in between addressing our land allocation shortfall, other parts of our land were taken for the purposes of the railway, provincial Highway 59, and a hydro transmission line, all of which we are still working to resolve. Brokenhead is currently addressing the claim through the specific claims process for the railway, railway station grounds, and hydro transmission line, which currently involve 111.7 acres of our land. Other areas of our land have either been or still are occupied by the churches and the Hudson's Bay Company.
We also live in an era in which we are forced to create satellite reserves and jump through the endless reserve-creation hoops that continue to delay our use and the benefit of our land.
Our nation works hard to address the legacy and resolution of our treaty, per capita shortfalls, land selection, acquisition, third party interests, municipal relations, reserve creation through the additions-to-reserve policy, and the loss of use and opportunities of our land. We settled a claim through the pre-tribunal specific claims process in 1985. We settled for 210 acres, and this settlement did not represent the loss of use and opportunities, nor of any other additional losses. Quantifying the impact of losses is a lengthy and costly exercise that doesn't consider all the other losses I previously identified.
When we had our oral history evidentiary hearing in our nation, the hearing environment was very adversarial. One elder who provided oral historic knowledge was challenged by a mainstream technical and time-scientific position by the crown. One elder stated afterwards in private that, “The crown really worked hard to make a fool out of me.” I was so embarrassed for having put him in that position. I even almost felt like saying, “I am guilty.”
The funding process does not realistically consider the efforts required by a first nation to participate in the specific claims process fairly. Expensive time is spent by our community staff and leadership to come together to determine what, if any, evidence can be uncovered within our nation. When our nation is involved in this kind of land claims process, we require additional time and resources in order to reassure our nation's citizens that we're not losing or giving up any more land due to crown-first nation legacy issues.
The current process requires our first nation to submit a budget proposal to Canada that narrowly states the total actual costs of the process, which does not consider supporting the community-involved process undertaken to attempt to provide our historical evidence.
Legal processes and legal representation are prioritized rather than the potential contributions of our nation. As well, there are staff changes with Canada. Then our file is further delayed because of lack of communication. There doesn't appear to be any succession planning so that our file will continue to proceed.
It's very concerning that a majority of claims are not yet settled through the tribunal. As the delay proceeds, there are many missed opportunities, and loss of use, potential growth, and betterment of the nation are impaired.
BON increasingly continues to experience a negative impact of the historical taking of our lands for purposes such as railway transportation and hydroelectricity. BON is working very hard to catch up to the progress that has been made by our treaty counterparts during the past 146 years. As you have heard, we have been attempting to do this, basically with the same land base we were originally allocated in 1871.
I'm Lance Roulette of Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation.
It wasn't too clear exactly what type of information was requested from the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation. In 2007, Sandy Bay's claim was rejected as a result of some information not being conveyed from lawyer to lawyer in relation to how the claims process had worked for Sandy Bay. There was a denial in 2007. Sandy Bay then began to wait out the five-year period to once again re-apply for the specific claims process, and right now we're waiting to present this claim in the face of the issue of land claims and specific claims.
Some of the things we have noted and have seen throughout the process are, once again, getting access to the right areas, not only where the claim can be expedited, but more along the lines of how the claim itself can move along more quickly for Sandy Bay. It's been very, very difficult at times not only to overcome the barriers of accessing the right resources to move forward but also because the first nations begin to question whether the claim will be even harder, seeing that we are being requested to do our submissions, but at the same time, it's the same group that decides whether it's yea or nay.
A lot of the time we see an extension of certain negotiations that truly affect the first nation at hand and how they move forward. I want to speak more to the issue of the default and intervention within the first nations. It's been duly noted that the first nations have undergone interventions, and they are usually engaged through the overall debt associated with their contribution agreements. Most of the time these contribution agreement terms are non-negotiated, and that's one of the key factors, because, most of the time, to enable our systems to work adequately and properly, I believe that the contribution agreements need to be negotiated to fit what each specific first nation is going through rather than having a proposal or a formula driven for all of the first nations across Canada.
More along the lines of looking at the issue and the word “intervention”, what does the word “intervention” imply? It's the action or process of intervening or actions taken to improve a situation. Today when many first nations hear the word “intervention”, it throws shivers down their spines, because a lot of the time there's a stigma attached to it that they are deemed to have poor governance, which is usually an indirect statement and the main contributing factor to funding model limitations in the intervention programs which, as designed, do not truly fit what the actual needs of any first nation. The funding models are difficult to implement to improve our way of life, which is why we have such a high rate of suicides and a lot of health issues, and especially where we're situated.
In Sandy Bay's case, one of the problems we have encountered is that there's no additional funding for the actual needs rather than the needs of any first nation as they are perceived and identified in the current process.
Also, the flow-through mechanism needs to be a little bit more prompt at flowing funds. This includes sources that encompass infrastructure projects that surpass deadlines as a result of delayed funding. These delays lead to debt being created for a first nation and year-end monies being clawed back, when they should automatically be transferable from year to year.
Under the INAC guideline, the recipient has not met its obligations under that funding agreement. The obligations under the agreement are clearly spelled out, but it does not address the adequacy that is needed within many first nations to close that social and economic gap.
Some of the changes, whether they happen federally or provincially.... If you look at the issue of wage increases, I find that kind of unique in this section, because we are part of Manitoba's government union collective bargaining agreement. When wage increases occur from year to year, the first nation doesn't get the additional funding to address that specific issue. The increases in the cost of living also pose a huge problem, which then invokes the issue of intervention.
Some of the problems that have occurred through the specific claims process could be used as a leveraging tool to offset some of the costs once a first nation gets its claim. We have two systems impacting each other, and this creates either levels of intervention or spitefulness as a result of not being able to move forward as promptly as the 23-step process currently sets out.
In closing, I will note the specifics to identify during the process of self-sufficiency. Through general understanding, parameters are set in place to govern the areas of service delivery based on the perceived needs of the current model of intervention and the model of promoting poverty.
Whether you are a politician, an advocate, or a service provider, one thing that remains is how the decisions of today improve the access to needed services and programs that truly reflect the needs of many first nations communities under the level of intervention. It is also necessary to ensure progress by means of partnerships, dialogue, and healthy relationships.
In order for an intervention to work perfectly, we need clear timelines for transferring skill sets back and forth as well as for developing an exit strategy within many first nations communities. I think there are a few out there who are looking for a process rather than just saying, “Hey, you're 23% over your overall funding within your debt retirement. You are going to be running under a regional intervention committee, and you therefore need to go into intervention.”
A lot of the first nations communities need to be aware of what the timelines are in any level of intervention. We have first nations that have TLE but that are still under third-party management. What steps are being taken to help them become self-sufficient? I'm keying in more on the issue of intervention and how it relates to first nations, because we are going through the exercises ourselves.
In relation to the claims issue, I think there is still a lot that Sandy Bay needs to learn. We are still fairly new at this, and some of the barriers we have encountered are related to getting the dialogue straight across and having that last interaction.
Good morning. Thank you.
My name is Jason Madden. I'm a Métis lawyer, a citizen of the Métis Nation, and legal counsel for the Manitoba Metis Federation in their land claim and self-government negotiations.
I'm going to start with a little bit of history, because I think that part of reconciliation is telling truths about our history. The story of the Métis is often done in little sound bites. However, it is not really fundamentally understood that Canada wouldn't be the Canada we have today without the constitutional compact that was forged here in 1869 and 1870 between the provisional government of the Métis and the Government of Canada.
I have a presentation that I've circulated. I think one of the things the Métis have been constantly struggling with is finding their place within Confederation, and also making sure that they stay on the map. There are two quotes that I want to highlight, one from Louis Riel and one from Sir John A., which show the dynamic or the differences of perspective about what actually happened or what was forged.
This is what Riel is writing in 1885 about the relationship. He says:
||When the Government of Canada presented itself at our doors it found us at peace. It found that the Metis people of the North-West could not only live well without it...but that it had a government of its own, free, peaceful, well-functioning, contributing to the work of civilization in a way that the Company from England could never have done without thousands of soldiers. It was a government with an organized constitution, whose jurisdiction was all the more legitimate and worthy of respect, because it was exercised over a country that belonged to it.
That's Riel's perspective about what was negotiated, and he later on refers to it as a treaty between the Métis and Canada.
This is what Sir John A. writes in his diaries, likely to one of his drinking buddies:
||...it will require considerable management to keep those wild people quiet. In another year the present residents...will be altogether swamped by the influx of strangers who will go in with the idea of becoming industrious and peaceable settlers.
That's Sir John in 1869. That's the vision. Of course, yes, make the promise, whatever gets us through the day, whatever gets us what we want, and we will swamp them. Of course, that is the fundamental starting point of the relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation. If you're going to enable reconciliation, you need to talk truths about it.
Louis Riel is in vogue now. You see him on sweatshirts and on social media, but you have to remember what Riel fought for. It wasn't western alienation. It wasn't just French language rights. It was for his people, the Métis people. So if you're going to honour Riel, you'll have to have reconciliation with the Métis. That has been a long time coming, and we think that we're making progress, and we're going to talk about it in the context of the modern-day land claims agreement processes, as well as self-government. But I think it's important to remember that that's our history. Let's own it.
No one can go back and rewrite it or change it, but we also can't duck it.
Reconciliation and whether you call them claims—I hate the term “claims”. Get rid of it. It is so patronizing, that we are claiming to get something. There are historic grievances. There is unfinished business. But the idea that you have the underlying title is your assumption, and it's not true in law internationally. The idea that we are then claiming, coming cap in hand, as opposed to trying to tell truths about how this country was formed, and dealing with the unfinished business of Confederation, or these historic grievances.... If you do want a recommendation, let's get that vernacular out of the system, because it's pejorative and also incorrect, and embedded within it are biases that I don't think stand any more.
This is the original compact that essentially brings western Canada into Confederation. I think the Métis have gone through what we call several stages in that relationship. Post-1870 is a history, which I think is familiar to first nations and others, of dispossession, denial, and discrimination.
Post-1870, it's not just that they are going to swamp us with settlers; it's that there is going to be a reign of terror. There are going to be rapes. There are going to be beatings. There are going to be murders, and that's how they acquire the land. It's not simply diligent settlers coming in. All this leads to the Métis losing much of their traditional land base and actually scattering throughout parts of the province as well as into other parts of western Canada.
In the era following the Second World War, Métis veterans came back and began reorganizing and rebuilding the Manitoba Métis community. They had gone to fight for Canada and for international human rights, and the idea that they didn't have them on their own soil was deeply offensive. From 1967, you see the Manitoba Métis Federation form and Métis groups beginning to organize again in the Prairies.
The period from 1982 to 2016, I call “negotiations interrupted” and the “hunt for justice in the courts”. The Métis thought that in 1982 everything was going to change and negotiations were going to begin. They soon realized that all section 35 really meant for the Métis was the right to go to court. They did, and they have continued to do so over the last 15 years. I've been there five times and have been successful each and every time.
Through a trilogy of cases, from the Powley case in 2003, to the Manitoba Metis Federation case in 2013, to the Daniels case in 2016, the fundamental constitutional legal questions with respect to the Métis were asked and answered. In these cases, it was decided that the Métis have jurisdiction, rights equal to those of first nations and Inuit, and outstanding land claims that need to be resolved. We hope we're entering a new era of reconciliation, redress, and respect.
I want to talk about what's called the MMF land claim. In respect of section 35 of the Constitution Act, it's sometimes thought that a land claim must actually claim a specific piece of land. What section 35 states in subsection 35(3) is that “treaty rights” include rights that now exist, or may be so acquired, by way of land claims agreements. The idea for the MMF is that section 35 is to be read progressively and that ultimately aboriginal rights can be converted into treaty rights through negotiations.
The problem for the Métis is that in 1981 they filed their land claim with Canada, and some learned Department of Justice lawyers looked at it and said there was nothing there. In fact, we included the letter, and what they actually said was:
||Please find enclosed the Government's response to your land claim submission, as prepared by a legal advisors. You will note it is their considered [legal] opinion that the claim as submitted does not support a valid claim in law nor...justify the grant of further...research.
That was sent back to the MMF in 1981. Six months later they did what every indigenous group does—they retained Tom Berger. Thus began a litigation of 32 years. Now, the good thing about the Department of Justice lawyers is that they are always wrong on these sorts of things. Thirty-two years later, the Supreme Court of Canada said that there was indeed an outstanding claim, that this was a fundamental compact or promise for Canada, and that the honour of the crown was breached in the implementation of section 31, or the land grant. That took 32 years and millions of dollars in time and energy, but Métis were successful in demonstrating that they ought to be included after years of historical exclusion. Since 2013, a memorandum of understanding and a framework agreement have been signed, and Métis are beginning to finally get to the table in these negotiations.
I recommend that everyone read the report on Métis rights by Tom Isaac, the ministerial special representative. It is a short, well-written, and very helpful report that gives a far better synopsis than I can do in 10 minutes of the trajectory of Métis rights and how your existing policies in relation to land claims and self-government agreements need to be modified to include the Métis. He essentially says that the Métis have no place, that your policies are designed for first nations and Inuit, and that these policies exclude the Métis by their very nature. The idea that we have to take additional cases throughout Manitoba and other parts of the Prairies as opposed to getting to negotiations is absurd.
The other big issue for us is the policy. Right now I, as MMF's legal counsel, feel that I'm Charlie Brown and that Lucy has the football, because at any time it can be pulled since I don't have a policy framework to operate under for Métis negotiations. There is no legislative base.
I think that's one of the key messages that we want to send today. There needs to be some sort of framework to support Métis negotiations, so that football doesn't get pulled away at a later date.
Good morning. My name is Ronald Robillard, and I am the chief negotiator for Saskatchewan Athabasca Denesuline. I have here with me Barry Hunter, who is the adviser to negotiations as well.
I have a presentation that I'm going to read to you. This is a submission on behalf of the Athabasca Dene leaders and the membership of Fond Du Lac, Black Lake, and Hatchet Lake.
On behalf of the Saskatchewan Athabasca Denesuline, we would like to thank the committee members for this opportunity. Following seven years of litigation, the Athabasca Denesuline have been working towards a negotiated settlement for the last 18 years. With regard to the background of the negotiations, the Athabasca Denesuline includes Black Lake, Fond Du Lac and Hatchet Lake.
Our history, culture, and way of life span thousands of years and were predicated on the movements of the Beverly and Qamanirjuag caribou herds. Our traditional territory parallels the range of BQ caribou herds, including portions of what are now known as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. There is also a map attached to that.
The recent political boundaries have dissected our traditional way of life, making it difficult to exercise our way of life. We are dealing with regulation of multiple jurisdictions. Other social changes have negatively impacted our culture, our economies, and our traditional way of life. There is a feeling of disrespect and disregard for our treaty rights.
During the seventies and eighties, the Athabasca Denesuline became concerned that Canada was negotiating—without consultation or input—comprehensive claim settlements with other indigenous groups in the NWT, including the determination of territorial boundaries over the area of current and traditional use by the Athabasca Denesuline.
Canada's position that the Athabasca Denesuline have no unextinguished rights in the NWT is based on the blanket extinguishment provision of Treaties 8 and 10 and because the Athabasca Denesuline also have treaty land entitlements in Saskatchewan.
Failed efforts to get the federal and territorial governments to recognize our rights led the Athabasca Denesuline to launch a court action in 1991. The AD sought declarations that we have treaty or unextinguished aboriginal rights and damages for infringement of those rights.
In 1995, our claim was recognized by the Indian Claims Commission, which concluded that the Athabasca Denesuline have treaty harvesting rights north of the 60th parallel and recommended that Canada formally recognize the existence of these rights and afford them section 35 protection.
In 2000, we began out-of-court settlement negotiations with the intent of resolving the litigation, reconciling lost opportunities, and recognizing Denesuline rights north of 60. Although this out-of-court settlement that deals with some elements of a comprehensive claims package like land and resource management, there are no subsurface rights, royalty-sharing or self-government provisions, or other elements of a comprehensive claim.
Our concern is that despite these limits, the AD draft final agreement still requires comprehensive release from all past and future claims to aboriginal rights.
While we find this objectionable in principle when considering the time and costs of litigation and Canada's terms for negotiation, following consultation with our community leaders and elders, we proceeded with negotiating a settlement with Canada that included some significant but not all elements of a comprehensive claim.
The negotiation process has been incredibly challenging due to multiple territorial jurisdictions, provincial jurisdiction, an entrenched bureaucracy unable to adapt to the unique situation, and overlapping interests among aboriginal groups. However, we have reached a draft final agreement with the federal crown. We would like to focus the remainder of our presentation on some of these key challenges and accomplishments.
First of all, on overlapping indigenous interests, through compromise and negotiations, a historic agreement was reached between AD and GKD and the Inuit in 2007, supported by Canada. This arrangement outlined the understanding between the parties on the negotiation of AD and GKD land, harvesting and resource management rights in Nunavut, and required amendments to the NLCA to accommodate these rights.
This has set the stage for concluding negotiations of the rights of AD and GKD in Nunavut. Discussions with Akaitcho and NWT Métis in the Northwest Territories have been ongoing, but it has been challenging to reach overlapping arrangements.
Canada has applied different criteria for establishing settlement boundaries for various indigenous groups. Only the Athabaska Denesuline and GKD have had to prove to Canada and GNWT their settlement area through land use and occupancy research.
On the other hand, the other indigenous groups are negotiating settlement areas with Canada and GNWT covering most of our traditional territory in South Slave Region without similar evidence of traditional use and occupancy. The overall situation differs from that of Nunavut as there are no other final land claim agreements in the South Slave Region. The draft AD and GKD agreements are written with placeholders for resource management and other provisions to avoid adversely impacting the rights of other indigenous groups.
The AD agreement is currently undergoing a consultation process with these other groups. With regard to territorial issues, the Government of the Northwest Territories, unfortunately, opposes the draft AD final agreement with Canada due to the quantum of settlement land and resource management provisions. This opposition is due to their unjust characterization of the AD as non-residents and not deserving of the same rights and benefits as other northern indigenous peoples. Their opposition caps years of frustrating, half-hearted participation of the GNWT and their ultimate withdrawal from negotiations. AD have met with GNWT and Canada many times at great expense to seek a solution to a land quantum issue and particularly to get the GNWT back to the negotiating table.
We've suggested several possible approaches, but these have been rejected. Neither has the GNWT provided us with any clear alternative offers to consider. We no longer see them as party to the negotiations or settlement. As a consequence to GNWT's opposition, Canada has offered to conclude a treaty with us bilaterally. Most of the difficult drafting and technical land-use-related issues have been resolved. Canada and AD must continue with the bilateral approach to settling.
Until very recently, the Government of Nunavut had been back at the negotiating table. Upon their return, they began providing comments on the draft final agreements and implementation funding, and insisting that they must be ratifying parties to the treaty. We see no constitutional justification for their participation as parties to our treaty. By allowing the territorial governments to delay conclusion of the treaty on the question of their participation as parties to the treaty, Canada is allowing the narrow local concerns of territorial governments to prevail and act as a veto over Canada's constitutional treaty obligation and paramount objective of reconciliation. In the end, treaty-making is a nation-to-nation endeavour.
Frankly, seven years of litigation and 18 years of negotiations are long enough. During this time we have dealt with nine Canadian governments, 14 federal ministers, six federal negotiators, four special ministerial representatives, and myriad territorial administrations. These governments have come from across the political spectrum, and our issues have never been partisan. Each change necessitated a political reset and resulted in a significant delay to settling our agreement. Such lengthy time frames impact negotiations' credibility, as well as the timeliness and relevancy of the agreement.
In conclusion, Canada and Athabaska Denesuline have reached a bilateral draft final agreement that settles a long-standing dispute 25 years in the making. It must proceed to immediate finalization. The opposition of the territorial governments cannot stand in the way. The territorial governments do not have a veto if they are included as ratifying parties over Canada's constitutional obligation to conclude our treaty on a nation-to-nation basis as part of the reconciliation process.
The Athabaska Denesuline thank you for this opportunity to make a presentation. We have been in negotiations for the past 18 years. It's been a long process dealing with multiple jurisdictions and dealing with overlapping issues and so forth. A lot of our elders have sat around the negotiating table with us since we started back in 2000. A lot of them are six feet under the ground now. A couple of days ago we lost a chief negotiator who sat on the Manitoba side; he wanted to see the final agreement. I think 18 years is long enough, and I hope this matter is taken seriously by the governments. Their policies have to change to accommodate today's reality of how we do things. All we want is recognition of our traditional territory.
Respectfully, on behalf of the Sayisi Dene First Nation and the Northlands Denesuline First Nation, collectively known as Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene, I would like to thank the committee members for the opportunity to make this presentation.
My name is Wayne Wysocki. I'm a partner in a consulting firm called Symbion Consultants, and I've been working with the two first nations on a negotiated solution to the Samuel/Thorassie litigation since 2001.
Also with me is Benji Denechezhe, currently the chief negotiator for Northlands Denesuline First Nation, and Geoff Bussidor, the new chief negotiator for Sayisi Dene First Nation.
The traditional land of Sayisi Dene First Nation and Northlands Denesuline First Nation stretches from northern Manitoba into what is now Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Both signed treaties. Northlands is part of the Barren Lands band. They're part of Treaty 10, which was signed in 1907. Sayisi Dene are adherents to Treaty 5, which was signed in 1910. In the seventies, the first nations established communities and reserves at Tadoule Lake and Lac Brochet. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, both first nations sought to select treaty land north of 60, but were consistently denied this by Canada because they had signed treaties, and Canada's position was that they were no longer entitled to land north of 60.
In March 1993, just prior to the signing of a Nunavut land claim agreement, Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene commenced litigation—Samuel/Thorassie versus Canada—seeking a declaration of their rights north of 60. In the spring of 1999, after spending nearly seven years in litigation, Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene took their drums to Parliament Hill, demanding that Minister Stewart meet with them and agree to establish a table to negotiate their rights north of 60. Since then, these two first nations, along with the three Athabasca Dene first nations, have been negotiating with the Government of Canada to complete two land claim agreements covering settlement areas in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. There's a map attached to our presentation that shows you all the settlement areas that have been agreed to pursuant to these negotiations.
These agreements have been negotiated in conjunction with changes to the Nunavut land claims agreement to ensure consistency. This has been achieved with the support of both Conservative and Liberal administrations. It has never been a partisan political issue, nor should it be. The issues have been complex because of transboundary claims involving three jurisdictions—Canada, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Through hard work and reasonable compromise, Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene have reached a close-to-final agreement with the federal crown.
The issue is that the two territorial governments are delaying finalization of the treaty. The two territorial governments have had full opportunity to be involved in all discussions and have been fairly consulted and accommodated with respect to their interests and concerns. Nevertheless, they have delayed the finalization of the treaty. Throughout these 18 years of negotiations, the territorial governments have consistently raised concerns about the substance of the treaty, which has led to their leaving the negotiating table or adopting positions leading to a stalemate.
Canada has appointed three outside facilitators over the last 11 years to overcome territorial government resistance. No one has been successful. Currently, the GNWT is not supporting conclusion of the treaty because it believes Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene should accept the treaty that provides them with second-tier section 35 rights. The Government of Nunavut, which after a five-year absence began providing comments in late 2016, believes that its consent is required as part of the conclusion of the treaty, and that ratification cannot occur until it has been adequately compensated for treaty implementation costs. By allowing the territorial governments to delay conclusion of the treaty, Canada is allowing the narrow local interests of the territorial governments to prevail over the paramount objective of reconciliation.
Canada has the legal authority to ratify the treaty without territorial government concurrence. In fact, the rationale behind the crown-indigenous relationship as set out in a royal proclamation and the Constitution Act was to ensure that local interests did not interfere with the crown's fulfilling its obligations to indigenous peoples. The royal proclamation placed the sole responsibility for Indians and Indian lands in the crown and the right of the United Kingdom. The royal proclamation recognized the rights of Indians to unceded lands in their possession, and established that those rights to the lands could be ceded only to the crown. Section 91.24 of the Constitution Act passed this jurisdiction to the new crown and the right of Canada. The territorial governments are not the crown. The treaty does not change their jurisdiction. Therefore, there's no legal basis for their being parties to or giving consent to the treaty.
After 18 years of negotiations, it's time for Canada to exercise its authority and conclude the treaty bilaterally. Failing to conclude the treaty bilaterally, given the offer to the Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene and the case law, would be inconsistent with the honour of the crown. Canada's offer was bilateral, and we accepted the offer as being the basis for negotiation.
At no point in the offer is the consent, or even the co-operation, of the territorial government required. The offer provided for territorial government participation in those matters within their jurisdiction. Not only have they fully participated in those matters, but they have also, on many issues that go well beyond their jurisdiction. The case law requires the crown, once it has entered into negotiations with an aboriginal group, to resolve outstanding claims and to negotiate honourably and in good faith. Outside considerations not related to the conduct of the indigenous negotiating parties do not override Canada's obligation to negotiate honourably. Further, the honour of the crown requires Canada to fulfill its constitutional promise to Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene in a diligent way.
In addition to Canada's legal obligations, there are equally important political and moral reasons to conclude the treaty. This government has sent clear political messages that following policies and practices that do not accord with the constitutionally protected nation-to-nation relationship is not acceptable. Consistent with the promise of a renewed relationship, the directed his minister of indigenous affairs, in her mandate letter, that her overarching goal will be to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. This renewal must be a nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
Furthering the promises of a renewed relationship, on July 17, 2017, the Government of Canada proclaimed its principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. These principles are further evidence of the reset of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. What is particularly significant about these principles is the focus of the crown/indigenous relationship in the negotiation of treaties, the importance of treaties in effecting reconciliation, and the right of all indigenous peoples to enter into treaties with the crown.
For the Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene, the reset of the relationship and implementing the constitutional foundation of the nation-to-nation relationship for treaty-making means that territorial governments do not have a veto over their treaty, and territorial governments are not parties to their treaty. Nowhere has the said that the new relationship is subject to the consent of territorial governments or that recognition of indigenous and treaty rights is dependent upon the approval of territorial governments or that the crown support is dependent on support from territorial governments. Any further delay signals that this government has no intention of honouring its duty and the promises of its leaders.
Canada's moral obligation to move forward cannot be overlooked. There is a profound human cost attributable to Canada having allowed these negotiations to drag on for nearly 18 years. An entire generation has watched and waited for fair recognition of Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene rights north of 60. Those people who were middle-aged when this claim was filed are now elders; those who were preschoolers are young adults; and most of the elders who encouraged their people to stand up for recognition of the rights in the early nineties have died.
Both of the original Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene chief negotiators have passed on since these negotiations started. Peter Thorassi, chief negotiator for Sayisi Dene, just left us last week, and Jerome Deneshezhe was taken in 2015. Along with this loss of life, there's a loss of hope and a loss of confidence in the negotiators and community leaders. Patience is running out and cynicism is gaining momentum. Disregarding these obligations to move forward is a form of contemporary colonialism. We are asking this committee to advise Parliament that any further delay in concluding the treaty is wrong on legal, political, and moral grounds. Concluding the treaty is simply the right thing to do. We are also asking each and every one of you, as parliamentarians, to take this message back to your party caucuses.
If the committee can indulge us for a second, I'd like the chief negotiators to make some concluding remarks.
[Witness speaks in Dene
We presented the history of what took place, but I'm going to speak on the grassroots level about how our people are today.
When this government came into power, there was hope that reconciliation and nation building were priorities, and our people had hope, but now that hope is fading away since these are always delayed by bureaucrats not willing to move forward. At our grassroots level, our people are waiting patiently. We are very kind people and very tolerant, despite how we have been treated, and history says it all.
Today I'm here. I am speaking from my heart for our people. We all have a common goal. We would like something better for our children. For over 100 years that's what we've been trying to do, and we're still struggling today.
The minister last August in Tadoule Lake was crying. She had tears, and I have a recording of that, and she said never again will the Government of Canada treat our people.... Guess what? Today we are still having the same struggle.
I hope you can help us. If we have to beg, so be it. Please, we are asking you to help us get what is rightfully ours, because we've been waiting for justice for a long time. Our people are dying. The people who started this negotiation have both passed on, and we buried one three days ago who was my partner and colleague. As you can see, it is heavy for us at times.
This is not the first time I have come to present and talk in front of people, but when I start going, I think about the people back home. I hope you can hear us. We have been waiting long enough, and it's time to move forward and get on with what's already agreed upon by Canada.
I don't know if you can hear me. I have a soft voice.
This is my first time publicly presenting on behalf of our band, the Sayisi Dene First Nation. I just inherited the chief negotiator's position. He passed on. We buried him two days ago here in Winnipeg.
According to one of the social workers who was involved with our relocation, the Sayisi Dene First Nation is the band treated the worst by the government in all of Canada. That's not a very good thing, but I don't want to dwell on that. What we're here for is to talk to the NWT issues.
I just want to mention that if you look at territorial borders from the past, from when Canada was first being developed, you'll see that the territorial border has been moving steadily up and steadily up and has been reduced and reduced. Our treaties were signed while we were still within the Northwest Territories' border, so we're actually territorial treaty people. My grandparents were born in the territories. My mother was born in Edehon Lake, which was in the Northwest Territories in 1931, but now that's been turned over to Nunavut. She's passed on, but there would be that question: what territory are you from? What would you answer to that? Anyway, those types of things happen.
I just want to let you know that our people have suffered enough. We're struggling to regain our territories, and if you could help us in that way, it would be appreciated.
My grandmother was a Dogrib, or part Dogrib, and my grandfather was part Nasiyu, which is an extinct tribe. They were underground dwellers. There's an island named after them at Duck Lake. It's called Battle Island. I don't know why they called it Battle Island, because it wasn't even a battle where they were killed off. But we call it Nasiyu Nughe, which means Nasiyu Island. That's where they lived underground on an esker.
I just wanted to give you a little bit of personal history and the relevance to the issues at hand. Thank you.
There are two questions. The answer to the first one is that you are absolutely correct. The indigenous groups, including Athabasca Dene and Ghotelnene K'odtineh Dene, and with all respect to the Inuit, who are not here, we spent a tremendous amount of time, and the overlap agreements that we reached, which were the precursors to moving forward with these treaties, were called, by the former minister of indigenous affairs, models that should be applied across Canada.
Yes, we've done a tremendous amount of, basically, the crown's work, in figuring it out. When we did figure it out the first time, the crown said to us, “Well, we told you to go figure it out, but that's not our deal. We'll have to get a mandate to work on that”, and that took two years. Then we figured it out with the Athabasca Dene, and the crown said the same thing: “Well, we told you to figure it out, but that's not our deal”, and it took another three years before those deals were actually formalized in offers.
The second part of your question is about the dilemma we are now facing. We now have Canada signing on to UNDRIP and trying to decide how it is going to be implemented. We are on the cusp of a deal with Canada that is, quite frankly, looking to be a little stale-dated. That's the problem when these things drag on for so long.
What we've asked the Department of Justice to do, and we've had meetings with the minister's representative, is to include in our treaty clauses that would allow the treaty to evolve as Canada moves forward with the implementation of UNDRIP, as we are looking for novel and unique solutions that work. Despite the fact that we have certainty provisions in our treaty, we also want to have a true treaty relationship that is a beginning and not a divorce, and one that would evolve with the UNDRIP implementation.
I'm sorry for my overtime.
I think one issue is going to be how we actually reimagine or not get stuck in the current very narrow boxes we have vis-à-vis self-government, about what we think self-government is. I think the bigger challenge for the Métis is understanding that they want to build. They have a citizenship-based government that isn't necessarily tied to specific pieces of land, but that jurisdiction exists for its citizens throughout the province of Manitoba. I think it's a different jurisdiction issue.
I do want to raise just this, though. The crown is obligated to advance reconciliation, and all governments are actually a part of the crown. I just find it so shocking, for example, for pipelines. People are able to make difficult decisions. Trans Mountain is not popular. The NDP government is a little ticked off about that.
These decisions, though, have constitutional imperatives underlying them. It's not just about a pipeline. We're able to make those tough decisions—when governments, even 92 governments, don't like it—on issues that don't affect people's lives, lands, and existence, but we somehow hit inertia when it comes to aboriginal people.
I think that is deeply offensive. I think we have to start thinking about it in that way, shape, or form. That's why the courts smack you all the time on these issues, because this isn't honourable. The idea that we get to play hide and seek behind jurisdictions when reconciliation gets lost for another jurisdiction is just a non-issue.
For the Métis, it's the same. We're finally getting to the table. I think in the framework agreement that we build out we, attempt to say, “Look, if we can't do these one-shot deals where it takes 20 years, we need some off ramps where we're making progress”, because we can't hold people together, and also we lose political momentum if we're not constantly moving the yardstick, as opposed to the big bang theory, which you can hear in such comments as, “Well, by the time we get to the deal, it's stale, because the courts have moved further than governments were when the initial cabinet mandate was developed.”
It has not advanced far. What we're hoping to have in the next period of time for the Manitoba Métis is a co-developed cabinet mandate to go forward to make progress on these things.
From the Métis perspective, you have the inverse of what you've probably been hearing from first nations. Many first nations are trying to get out of the Indian Act, and there are challenges associated with that, whereas the Métis have never been in it and don't want parts of it either.
The problem, though, given the way the system is set up and that INAC is self-perpetuating, is that unless you provide a framework that allows the Métis to skip over or not get into what I call the dumpster fire of INAC programming, they're going to use that as the proxy.
What you really need to recognize, and what we hope the department split is indicative of, is a desire to make the investments in the Métis government. Let's not create new entitlement programs. Let's not create programs that don't necessarily meet the needs of the Métis. Instead, allow them to design programming that meets the unique needs they have, rather than replicating a failed system.
What's needed there is innovation and vision and, to be quite frank, taking a risk by saying that we're not going to wait 18 years to get a deal. That's what we're optimistic about seeing: that there will be progress.
Daniels does answer that question. It answers the question, similar to the Eskimos reference, that Métis are included in the term Indians in section 91.24 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
They say, “Look at the way the term Indian...” There's no such thing as an Indian in this country. We would have an even more absurd discussion if Columbus was looking for Turkey. This is a term ascribed to Haida, to Tlicho, to Gwich'in. It is nothing magical. It is about indigenous peoples, and the Métis were one of those indigenous peoples recognized in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, as well as in the Constitution Act of 1867. That has been asked and answered. I don't think it is an issue.
Another pet peeve of mine is that I hate the term overlap. I remember Tlicho elders always saying, “Well, you know what this meant historically?” That's colonial language of saying it's overlap. It just meant that the land was good, that we shared it well, and that it was good places to go. I like that concept, as opposed to this dichotomy of us and them.
I think Canada needs to also have a broader discussion. We need to understand land differently. It's not a colonial context with a binary of I own it and you don't. There is a way that we share and come with our own sovereignty and jurisdictions and we weave it together. That's how the MMF describe it. They say, “Look, we have our jurisdictions as the Métis nation. You have your jurisdiction of Canada. The provinces have their jurisdictions and what we're working through together with self-government is weaving those jurisdictions together, not overlapping or one trumping the other. That's how we approach it.” Those discussions also have to happen with first nations, because this idea that Métis don't need a land base, or aren't deserving of a land base, or that it wasn't a part of who they were either, is fundamentally flawed.