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Results: 1 - 27 of 27
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to rise in this place to present two petitions today.
The first is from a number of constituents and others who have signed the e-petition calling for the federal government to examine the need for a permanent federal funding mechanism for public transit. The petitioners note that the current 10-year transit plan will end in 2027 and that having low-emission public transport is very important for meeting long-term climate goals. They ask that the federal government provide a permanent federal funding mechanism to go well beyond the 10-year transit plan and to work with all levels of government to provide sustainable, predictable, long-term and adequate funding.
The second petition speaks to the issue that gripped the country so much just months ago, but is not forgotten, which is the conflict on Wet'suwet'en territory over the Coastal GasLink and the need for the Government of Canada to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. They call for the RCMP to stand down and note that the RCMP has violated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I present two petitions this morning.
The residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands are calling on the government to simplify the process for protection of marine protected areas. It's a multi-layered communication process. The marine protected area first proposed in the 1970s for the southern Strait of Georgia, now called the Salish Sea, has been awaiting designation for so long that it was originally endorsed by Jacques Cousteau. That gives us a sense for why petitioners are calling for a simplified and more rapid process.
The second petition is from petitioners who are very concerned about our obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our commitments under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. They specifically reference the RCMP violation of UNDRIP in its actions on Wet'suwet'en territory and ask the government to commit to actually living the principles embodied in UNDRIP.
View Paul Manly Profile
Mr. Chair, it's an honour and a privilege to present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
People are concerned about gas fracking and the use of methane and the destruction that methane causes to our atmosphere and with climate change. They're calling on the government to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action by immediately halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on the Wet'suwet'en territory, and by ordering the RCMP to dismantle their exclusion zone and to stand down. They also call on the government to schedule nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial governments—which is something that we're happy to see has been happening and I commend the government for that effort—and to prioritize the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Chair, I rise to present two petitions on this anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.
The first petition is from petitioners concerned about human rights in the People's Republic of China and the detention of practitioners of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong. They call on the Government of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to impress the importance of universal human rights upon the government of the People's Republic of China and to allow swifter accommodation of human rights within the People's Republic of China.
The second petition pertains to human rights within Canada. It calls on the Government of Canada to follow and be accountable to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to fulfill the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to move forward swiftly to meet the expectations of justice for the Wet'suwet'en people.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to rise to present a petition today from a number of constituents calling for the government to act to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. There is a call to respect the Wet'suwet'en territory and to dismantle RCMP exclusion zones.
This petition came some time ago. Some of these issues have been dealt with. I am particularly pleased to note that the nation-to-nation talks called for by petitioners between the Wet'suwet'en and the federal and provincial governments have taken place. I will take this moment if I may to thank the honourable ministers involved in that effort.
Thank you.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Saanich—Gulf Islands. Of course, this petition has taken some time to reach the virtual floor of our Parliament, given the pandemic.
The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action in relation to UNDRIP. They call for the immediate halting of all existing and planned construction of Coastal GasLink projects on Wet'suwet'en territory. They also call for the scheduling of nation-to-nation talks, which we can acknowledge has commenced, but they also further call on prioritizing the real implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Paul Manly Profile
Mr. Chair, I have a petition today sent in by members of my constituency of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
It calls upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action by immediately putting a halt to all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory, ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down, scheduling nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial government—something that has already happened, and I'm sure that the petitioners would be pleased that the government has taken that action—and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Paul Manly Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This petition was signed and sent in by constituents of my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
It calls upon the House of Commons to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by immediately halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory, ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down, scheduling nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial governments—something that has already happened, thankfully—and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's a pleasure to be back before this committee for the first time in the new Parliament, especially with so many new faces on this truly important committee for Canada. I, too, want to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I am pleased to be here with my honourable colleague the Minister of Indigenous Services, Mr. Marc Miller, and our deputy ministers.
We understand that we've been asked to talk about the recent blockades and protests across the country, but I think I'm here mainly to talk about the complex underlying issues at their core. Our government understands that the recent rail blockades have had real impacts on Canadians, businesses and people across the country who rely on a working rail service to get to work, transport goods and keep their businesses running successfully, and also on indigenous peoples.
I think, as you know, that across all government departments, we're working around the clock to resolve this in a peaceful and lasting way. We welcomed the news last week that the remaining rail blockades had been removed and that regular rail service is resuming.
I think we understand that Canadians have been frustrated as they saw the impacts of the recent rail blockades continue, and some opposition politicians, we worry, were unfortunately focused on, as I think I said in the House of Commons, exploiting divisions within a community, which is not going to get us to lasting solutions and the kind of healing needed.
As the Prime Minister said so eloquently, Canadians expect us to work together to get through this together.
Marc and I are here to answer questions you may have because we believe it's really important that all of us truly understand the complexity and sensitivity of the situation and the danger of some of the inflammatory rhetoric we have heard in recent weeks.
As a physician, I am reminded that it's also the obligation of all parliamentarians to firstly do no harm. We need a lasting solution so that nations can take decisions together to achieve the certainty required for first nations, Métis and Inuit to ensure that their communities are healthy and vibrant.
The issues at the heart of this situation extend beyond a particular project, and deal with complex matters of indigenous governance, rights and title.
Over the past several weeks, my B.C. counterpart and I have been in ongoing communication with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to try to de-escalate the situation and find a path forward to deal with these issues in a substantive way. While policing decisions are made independently and free from political influence, we were pleased that the RCMP in B.C. worked with the Wet'suwet'en to make operational changes to de-escalate the situation and make room for the in-person talks between the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments.
We were also encouraged that Coastal GasLink independently agreed to pause work on the project during in-person discussions to help make that possible, and we were very grateful for Nathan Cullen's work in the de-escalating of the situation among all parties.
The weekend before last, when I met in Smithers with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government, we had very frank and substantive discussions, guided by respect, on issues around Wet'suwet'en rights and title. We were also pleased that the members of the Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition participated in the first night of the meeting, and we were able to hear their very important perspective directly. These talks focused on two separate issues: the recognition of Wet'suwet'en indigenous rights and title throughout their territory and the issues arising out of the Coastal GasLink project. These topics were discussed separately, and with respect to rights and title, the parties focused intensely on the commitments to an expedited process to implement Wet'suwet'en rights and title.
The result of these discussions was a draft arrangement that will be reviewed by the Wet'suwet'en clan members in their clans and in their houses through the Wet'suwet'en governance protocols for ratification. I believe that over these two weeks...that they need that space to have those conversations independently of outside voices. I believe that the removal of the remaining rail blockades last week and the resumption of rail service provides the Wet'suwet'en nation with that space to have this important conversation of rights and title within their territory.
Out of respect for the process, Canada has agreed that the Wet'suwet'en Nation would have the time to consider the details of this arrangement before it was made public. If ratified, Minister Fraser and I have agreed to return to the Wet'suwet'en territory to sign it, and the parties have agreed to implement title on an expedited basis and to coordinate how we will work together. We are inspired by the courageous Wet'suwet'en people who took the recognition of their rights to the Supreme Court of Canada in the historic Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa case in 1997. We need to be clear that the court did not, at that time, grant title to their lands; it affirmed the rights of the Wet'suwet'en, but said that the question of title was to be determined at a later time and then implemented.
I believe that this arrangement with the Wet'suwet'en people will now be able to breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa decision so that future generations do not have to face conflicts like the one that they face today. As the late chief Wah tah Kwets said in the Delgamuukw case, “It is up to us to create a new memory in the minds of our children.”
While work remains, these talks have been an important step on reconciling complex matters of rights and title.
From education to fisheries, to child and family services, to policing, to court systems, we have made important strides forward in the hard work of what Lee Crowchild describes as “deconstructing the effects of colonization”.
Over the past five years, we have been moving away from the parameters of the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies.
Our government's approach to negotiating rights-related agreements is being developed through lessons learned from the over 150 recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussion tables across Canada. These negotiations involve almost one million indigenous people from 480 first nations, 44 Inuit communities and seven Métis organizations. Since 2015, we have been advancing interest-based discussions and ensuring that co-development is the core of any negotiations with indigenous groups.
In 2019, the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the First Nations Summit co-developed the recognition of reconciliation rights policy for treaty negotiations in British Columbia. This new policy eliminates the concepts that were the barriers to future treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements, including extinguishment and cede and surrender. It demonstrates Canada's commitment to working collaboratively with indigenous and provincial partners, based on the affirmation and implementation of indigenous rights and in accordance with the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Together we are committed to resolving the issues we face and to implementing Wet'suwet'en rights and title. We understand that we are in a critical time together, and we are committed to building a new path together with indigenous peoples across Canada.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Chair.
I want to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.
I know that this directly impacted many of you in the room today, as it impacted the communities you represent, and the lives of your constituents.
The conversations that happened in Smithers with Minister Bennett are a positive and vital step, but there's no doubt that there's more work to do, work that many of you in this room know well as members of this important parliamentary committee. There's a lot of work to be done in addressing the underlying concerns of the Wet'suwet'en and the resulting solidarity actions that took place across the country.
However, I'm glad that together we can demonstrate a peaceful, achievable resolution. I believe the easy way is not always the right way. Sometimes using force is a sign of weakness. Over the past few weeks, we've seen the result of ignorance, fear and lack of understanding in vitriolic messages and comments online, through stories of individuals being targeted in public and private, and we saw that not far from here in Ottawa. An indigenous youth group had to move their planned weekly gathering due to the receipt of a death threat.
I think this shows that we have a long way to go when it comes to learning the dark parts of the history of this unreconciled country and its peoples, and truly making an effort to learn from one another and listen.
I've said this before and I'll continue to say it: When we don't have an open and honest dialogue, we simply can't move forward together.
Consistent, open and respectful dialogue is paramount to achieve peace, cooperation and prosperity in this country for all peoples.
It's in this spirit of peace and co-operation that I gathered with members of the Kanyen’kehá:ka along the rail tracks in Tyendinaga, as members will know. We pursued an open dialogue and made concerted efforts to move towards a peaceful resolution. Modest but important progress was made through this dialogue.
However, there was an immense amount of suspicion towards my presence—fear it was a ruse and that the police would move in. It's not every day that people are surrounded by police, and the reactions are normal. Parts of the conversation with the leadership of the community, elders and community members, including women and children, were very difficult, very painful and very personal. Upsetting stories were shared about this country's troubling treatment of indigenous peoples.
These are very serious issues which demand our attention, and have demanded it for hundreds of years, and there's no place in this discussion for rhetoric and vitriol.
The question I have found myself asking in the last few weeks is this: are we going to do things the way we have always done them, which has brought us to this point in our relationship, or do we take a new approach that engages in a true government-to-government relationship?
My greatest challenge in the past month in particular, but in the relationship in general, is trust. It prevents the best and most well-thought-out initiatives from moving forward. It is clear that our work must earn that trust over time.
In looking towards building a better future where we earn that trust, I believe it's important to acknowledge the past. For almost 500 years, indigenous peoples have faced discrimination in every aspect of their lives. The Crown, in part, has prevented a true equal partnership from developing with indigenous peoples, imposing instead a relationship based on colonial, paternalistic ways of thinking and doing. This approach has resulted in a legacy of devastation, pain and suffering, and it's not acceptable.
Many of us know where this has gotten us: a broken child and family system where indigenous children up to the age of 14 make up over 50% of kids in foster care even though they represent 7.7% of all Canadian children; shocking rates of suicide among indigenous youth, causing untold pain and hurt that will plague families and communities for generations to come; untenable housing situations where water that is unsafe to drink or even bathe in comes out of the taps; and communities that don't have reliable access to roads, health centres, or even schools.
When we formed government 4 years ago, we made many significant promises including on some of these areas I just touched upon.
We have delivered on much of that but the most important lesson we learned was that everything has to be done in true partnership. That Canada will succeed when we follow the voices of those whom we have ignored and disrespected for far too long, and those who lead communities across this country.
We know that there is no quick fix for the decades of systemic discrimination that indigenous peoples in Canada have faced. But our government is committed to putting in the time, energy and resources to right past wrongs and build a better way forward for future generations.
We do our best to undertake this work in a way that departs from much of our shared history—a history in which the inherent rights, leadership and cultural vitality have not been respected as they should have been.
Our approach is founded on partnership and co-development and is anchored in listening to indigenous leaders, elders, youth and community members and working to support their attainment of their goals based on their priorities.
Since 2016, we've invested $21 billion in the priorities of indigenous partners, priorities that have been set by indigenous partners, and together we've made some progress, but we still have a long way to close the unacceptable socio-economic gap that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples have been calling on the Canadian government to recognize and affirm their jurisdiction over their own affairs, to have control and agency over their land, housing, education, governance system and child and family services. Self-determination improves the well-being and prosperity of indigenous communities, and that's something all Canadians should strive to support.
There is no question that self-determination is a better way forward.
Self-governing indigenous peoples have a proven track record of greater socio-economic success. More children are completing high school, fewer people are unemployed, and health outcomes are much better. Indigenous-led initiatives are more successful, as we have seen time and time again.
There is a critical need to support nation and community-led success in every indigenous community in Canada, not just in education, but also in health care, water and resource management, child and family services, in short, in all sectors.
This is why our government continues to work on shifting policies to recognize the inherent right of self-government for first nations, Inuit and Métis. That means moving to novel models of indigenous government and supporting indigenous communities to assert their rights.
We are working to support first nations to opt out of sections of the Indian Act in areas such as land, environment, resource management and elections. As an example, we're working with indigenous institutions in first nations to develop the tools they need to drive local economic development, empower their communities and promote prosperity.
Since 2019, nine first nations have begun operating under their community-ratified land codes through the framework agreement on first nations land management and the First Nations Land Management Act. In addition, 18 first nations have joined the 264 other first nations asserting jurisdiction in the area of fiscal governance by opting into the First Nations Fiscal Management Act.
Self-determination is key to unlocking economic potential, creating opportunities for growth and closing socio-economic gaps. We know that with advancing self-determination, the potential for success is enormous—success of indigenous peoples and, frankly, all of Canada.
To get there, we need to understand that recognizing and affirming rights is a first step in finding a way forward. We need to support indigenous partners to identify our challenges and then we need to rise to those challenges. Finally, we need to recognize that the most important actions we can take are to listen to the hard truths, embrace change and welcome creative ideas. A transformation like that will take determination, persistence, patience and truth telling.
The work ahead of us will be difficult. As I mentioned, this path will require a lot from us. We will have to work in true partnership and listen, even when the truth will be hard to hear. We will have to continue to communicate, even when we disagree. We will need to continue to collaborate and look for creative ways to move forward, as well as new paths to healing and true understanding.
We've all seen what happens when we fail to maintain dialogue. This leads to mistrust and confusion, which can cause conflict and hinder our common journey. I want to be clear: it is up to the rights holders to determine who speaks for them about their indigenous rights and title. We will continue to work toward continuing these conversations. Despite all these challenges, I know that the hard work ahead of us is well worth the effort.
Together, we can build a better Canada, and that's what we're going to do. It will be a country in which healthy, prosperous and self-reliant indigenous nations will be key partners. We have the opportunity to learn from our shared history, to share our pain and even our joy, and to do the work that will result in a country where everyone can succeed.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on all sides to realize this essential work and enormous potential. It requires the participation of all Canadians.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think this is why we ended up having to take the approach we did. We want durable solutions. We have learned the lessons of Oka and Ipperwash. Idle No More was a bit different because it was an educational approach, with round dances, and it was a peaceful recognition of indigenous rights. I think we know that this has got to be about agreements and settling land claims and being able to move forward in the way that our partners feel is the justice that they have not received up until now.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Excuse me, Ms. Bérubé.
We thank the Bloc Québécois for adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for supporting it, because with the two departments, it is no longer possible for me to deal with the issues of rights and title. We know that where land claims are settled there is certainty. It's a solid foundation on which to build when we make decisions, when the indigenous people and the people with those rights are around the table.
View Leah Gazan Profile
You're not answering my question. It seems that your government supports the rule of law when it suits your economic interests. I say that because many times we end up in these situations in Canada because our own laws, our court decisions, or the human rights of indigenous peoples or indigenous laws are not respected.
If upholding the rule of law means respecting law in court, we can hardly conclude that respecting the rule of law for indigenous people and their rights has occurred with this government. Do you agree?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I think as Canadians we need to look only at the examples of Poundmaker, Big Bear, or Louis Riel to understand that sometimes invocation of the rule of law has been used against indigenous peoples to perpetrate historic injustices. That should be clear to everyone in this room and to all Canadians.
View Leah Gazan Profile
Then just let me help you here. It took you three days to come up with an agreement in principle with the hereditary chiefs. I think it's called “political will”.
I have just one last question. In light of the situation with the Wet'suwet'en, is it critical that we achieve the full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? The last time your government stalled it. It's critical that we pass it. What's your timeline?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I agree with the historic nature of UNDRIP, and I want to recognize the contribution of Romeo Saganash in putting forward that bill. It had the full support of our government, and it is something that we are resolutely committed to as a government. I commend Minister Bennett for achieving in four days what couldn't be achieved in 23 years. It's very important for everyone—
Éric Cardinal
View Éric Cardinal Profile
Éric Cardinal
2020-03-10 12:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for allowing me to testify, even though I couldn't appear in person. I am currently in the community of the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam Nation on the North Shore of Quebec. Long live technology!
I'm not going to go back over the facts of the indigenous crisis. You know them well enough. As an expert in indigenous law and policy, I will focus primarily on what I understand about the causes of the crisis and what I see as lessons we can learn from it.
First of all, the crisis is the culmination of several issues related to first nations territories and political governance. There are, of course, issues specific to the Wet'suwet'en Nation and those related to the Coastal GasLink project in particular. The crisis has become so acute because the issues go well beyond hereditary chiefs' opposition to a pipeline project. Moreover, it is not by chance that the crisis has had such resonance in Quebec and that there have been such important gestures of support from first nations in Quebec, particularly from the Mohawks and Micmacs, but also from the Atikamekw, Innu, Algonquins and many others.
The situation in Quebec is very similar to that in British Columbia. These are two regions where there is no, or at least few, historic surrender treaties. So there are large areas of what are referred to as unceded indigenous territories over which first nations have rights, but rights that are not fully recognized by governments or the courts. These are what I call invisible rights: indigenous rights, indigenous title, the inherent right of self-government, the right to be consulted and accommodated, the right to fiduciary protection by the Crown, and so on.
It's not because they are invisible that they don't exist, but because they are invisible, they are often ignored. In the course I teach at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Montréal, "Canadian Law and Indigenous Peoples", I always begin my first class with a drawing of my own, which is a pictorial representation of Canadian indigenous law. Here is my drawing.
You see a rectangle that symbolizes Canadian law and a circle that identifies the normative orders of indigenous peoples. This circle overlaps in part, but not completely, with positive Canadian law: there are rights that are sometimes recognized and others that are not. That's what Mr. Borrows was talking about in terms of indigenous rights, the normative orders of indigenous peoples that existed and have continued to exist in Canada.
The chart explains what is known as legal pluralism, which is present in indigenous law in Canada, and it also explains some of the issues related to the crisis and the complexity of the solutions. Indigenous peoples, because they have not been conquered, because they have not given up their inherent rights, despite the considerable efforts made during generations of colonial policy, still possess, to different degrees, depending on the nation, parts of their legal order that existed before the creation of Canada. This is true for those who have entered into treaties and even more so for those who have not, as is the case in Quebec and British Columbia in particular.
These rights have been recognized in part by the courts, which are trying, as best they can, to reconcile the pre-existing sovereignty of indigenous nations with the current sovereignty of the Crown. However, the concepts created remain vague and imprecise. In short, they often remain invisible to the current political system. This is the fundamental problem. Faced with the difficulty of resolving problems through political means, first nations are forced to turn to the courts or blockade railroads.
You have to realize that the courts are not a panacea. It is often very long, very expensive and very risky. Even when the first nation wins its case in court, it does not necessarily represent a victory. Take the case of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, one of the two nations involved in the famous 1997 Delgamuukw decision.
The decision was heralded as a great victory for indigenous people, as the court recognized the existence and scope of indigenous title to unceded indigenous lands. However, the court refused to decide the case, inviting governments to negotiate or first nations to return to the trial court to prove title again.
You'd certainly think we wouldn't be here today if the negotiation route had worked better. We can't blame the courts. The recognition and definition of these invisible rights was left to the Supreme Court, if not clarified at the political level, as the federal government had promised to do when the Constitution was patriated in 1982 and section 35 was included, which recognizes indigenous rights without defining them.
In fact, there are several people these days who are proposing new constitutional amendments to correct this situation. There have indeed been a few so-called modern treaties that have been concluded since the Supreme Court reminded the government in 1973, in the Calder case, that indigenous rights were not inert fossils.
Yes, there have been some treaties, but not many. The Wet'suwet'en situation is hardly unique. There are a number of similar situations, especially in British Columbia, Quebec and the Maritimes, involving unceded traditional territories in which these invisible rights exist.
Admittedly, as things stand, treaty making is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many nations. The current framework for negotiations is inadequate and ineffective. First, the current policy on the settlement of comprehensive claims has an enormous disadvantage: the federal government is both judge and jury. The process is also very long and fraught with pitfalls. To give you an idea of the situation, some nations have been in negotiations for over 40 years.
Meanwhile, the territories continue to be developed. The duty to negotiate and accommodate does indeed exist. The duty was established by the Supreme Court in 2004 in a case involving the Haida Nation. However, this duty is yet another vague and unclear concept that causes a great deal of frustration, among both indigenous people and proponents, by the way. They complain about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Admittedly, the governments don't have much motivation to negotiate for the recognition of rights. We can't rely too much on pressure from the courts, contrary to what we might think. While the courts recognize indigenous rights, and despite the constitutional protection granted in 1982, they've also ensured that these rights aren't absolute and that governments could violate them. The Supreme Court established criteria to justify the infringement of rights, even formally recognized aboriginal title. This gives governments a way to keep denying these invisible rights.
While recognizing the existence of aboriginal title, the Supreme Court also gave indigenous communities the burden of proving their previous occupation of their traditional territories. This proof is extraordinarily difficult and costly to produce. Only one indigenous nation has been able to provide this type of proof. That was in 2014, and the case concluded before the Supreme Court with the confirmation of the Tsilhqot'in Nation's aboriginal title to approximately 5% of its traditional territory.
What action can be taken by first nations that have invisible rights, but that can't have these rights recognized by the courts or participate in treaty negotiations? For now, they can only require that they be consulted. Again, they're reminded that they don't have a veto. If they aren't satisfied with the consultation, they can go to court. However, if they aren't satisfied with the courts, what's left? This is our impasse.
In my view, the indigenous crisis is the direct result of the governments' failure to recognize invisible rights, which are nonetheless real, and to address the historic grievances of first nations that have never surrendered or given up their land rights.
These land claims can't be resolved until the negotiation mechanisms have been fundamentally changed. After many years of frustrating negotiation experiences, I believe that the solution to the current impasse lies in a mechanism that remains separate from governments. The issue is systemic. In other words, the current system can't resolve these issues, which are so complex that they even go beyond the capacity of governments. These types of issues can't be resolved by public servants, who must comply with policies, directives and administrative procedures. I believe that a new institution, separate from governments, should be responsible for clarifying and implementing the rights of first nations. This independent body should be composed of individuals who have the necessary expertise and legitimacy to accomplish this sensitive and very important task.
One of the first things to change is probably the vocabulary used. We don't refer to claims, a confusing term that suggests that indigenous groups want new rights. As I said, these rights are existing rights for which they're seeking formal recognition. We should instead be talking about a rights recognition policy. This solution would also be a concrete step towards implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada officially supported.
In conclusion, I'll say a few words about the uncertainty that the crisis has caused among project proponents, particularly with regard to the authorities that have the jurisdiction to negotiate development agreements. Of course, companies and the government are turning to elected band councils. We must remember that these councils are currently trying to do everything they can with the means at their disposal to improve the lives of their communities. That said, this issue is another debate.
As I said earlier, a number of nations still have traditional authorities. In a few cases, the courts have also recognized the legitimacy of these traditional authorities, such as in the case of the Wet'suwet'en in 1997. The federal government's responsibility is useful, even fundamental, in this area. The federal government must ensure that the process respects the rights of the indigenous group concerned.
Rather than encouraging the division of indigenous communities, we should be giving the communities the necessary resources to create institutions designed according to their own legal perspective. This will enable them to make legitimate decisions that are more likely to be respected by everyone.
To do this, the political route must also be taken. It's not necessary to enter into an agreement, because the right to self-government is an inherent right. However, it's more useful to enter into self-government agreements. Otherwise, situations arise such as the one involving the Mohawks of Kahnawake. They've implemented a form of de facto sovereignty over their territory. That's one reason why the blockade couldn't be cleared through a simple court injunction.
Again, the current system makes it very difficult to enter into agreements and recognize self-government.
In short, creativity and courage are now needed in order to take concrete steps towards putting words into action. Otherwise, reconciliation will remain wishful thinking. The words “nation-to-nation relationship” will become meaningless, and these types of crises will happen again.
On that positive note, thank you.
Theresa Tait Day
View Theresa Tait Day Profile
Theresa Tait Day
2020-03-10 12:42
Thank you very much.
First, I would like to thank the Algonquin for allowing us to do business on their territory. Also, thank you to the committee for having me here today.
My name is Theresa Tait Day. My hereditary name is Wi'hali'yte. I'm the fourth generation in my family to hold this name. As a hereditary sub-chief of the House Beside the Fire, Kun Beghyukh, of the Laksilyu or Small Frog Clan, I have been involved in the governance of the Wet'suwet'en for many years. I sat at the OW table.
My training comes from my grandparents, who were active in the political system for governance rights and title. They were involved in the Calder case and the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case, as well as the formation of the Native Brotherhood of B.C. I served as a director of native programs at the Legal Services Society for almost a decade, and I think that's where I met John Borrows a long time ago.
I am the co-founder of the Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition, with five hereditary chiefs representing the five clans. The Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition was asked by hereditary chiefs and the community at large to come up with a solution to facilitate decision-making within our nation. We have been working particularly with LNG and Coastal GasLink. Our people wanted a benefit, and they wanted to be able to make a decision on a positive note. However, we've experienced lateral violence and coercion since then by the five chiefs who claim to represent the nation.
I speak on behalf of the WMC—as a hereditary female leader—my fellow hereditary chiefs, band members, our elected band councils, and members of my house group as an appointed sub-chief and designated spokesperson.
With regard to Coastal GasLink and the protesters, our communities came to the world's attention when members of our hereditary chiefs loudly broadcasted their opposition to Coastal GasLink, despite the fact that it has strong community support. These chiefs' voices have been amplified by the skills and the resources of outside environmental activists who say that they support Wet'suwet'en, but whose primary interest is to stop the pipeline.
The protest organizers are conveniently hiding behind our blanket as indigenous people while forcing their policy goals at our expense. This compromises our nation's social well-being and our people's economic future.
They have held up the hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline as defenders of traditional governance, leaving the impression that the chief and council are running roughshod over the wishes of the community. It's not that simple. Hereditary chiefs in our communities do not rule alone. They make decisions collectively. They gather in community halls. In these meetings, people are allowed to speak. An effort is made to work toward consensus. At the end of the process, the community and band-elected chiefs inform the hereditary chiefs of the community's message to be shared with the public. This project has been hijacked by the five chiefs.
The hereditary chiefs are representative decision-makers. They are not autocrats. They are told by the community what the decisions are, and that's how we move forward. This is not happening. The band and the community have been left out.
Based on a survey of Witset, the largest community, first nation, in our territory, over 80% of our community say they want LNG to proceed. There is a gap between what people say and what the hereditary chiefs are claiming.
You are being told that these men speak for our nation, but they often fail to understand even the basic traditions. The improper wearing of regalia in protest offends the most progressive traditional leaders. It shows a fundamental disrespect for our customary laws. How can we be governed by these people who don't understand them?
As for the Office of the Wet'suwet'en, it is structured and controlled by its own benefactors, who draw a salary from the operations and manage spending decisions. They are not accountable to our community.
By negotiating directly with the office, Canada and British Columbia legitimize a group of bullies and abusers of women.
Moreover, by refusing to hear from elected councils, these governments have, without merit, prevented the most credible current voices from being heard. The Indian Act system must be reformed, but that does not invalidate the role of the elected councils. While imperfect, they continue to speak for our people until a better model is implemented. That's why I'm here today to appeal to you to create a better model for decision-making.
The women's voices have been suppressed by dissent. As female Wet'suwet'en members and community leaders, we want to be heard and involved in the decision-making. That is our way. But our voices have not been heard. Many of the male hereditary chiefs are acting out of internalized historical oppression. We face patriarchal domination. In a very sick way, the voices of the privileged and non-indigenous protesters are taking precedence over indigenous women. They assert their agenda in solidarity to avoid facing the scrutiny of their policies.
This is both about a pipeline and not about a pipeline. What is happening here determines our process as a nation. A people's wishes have not been heard. I agree with John Borrows that there are beliefs, but in our nation we have been oppressed for 150 years, and we continue to be oppressed under the current regime.
At the draft agreement consultation on February 28, a number of hereditary chiefs attended a meeting prior to the male hereditary chiefs' meeting with the province and the federal cabinet ministers. We met until it was promised that the chiefs would have a community meeting open to the public. Instead, they decided to have these small clan meetings, where 20 people or five people come and make decisions about this. This is not what a democratic system looks like.
The two major issues at hand—the Wet'suwet'en's position on Coastal GasLink, and the role of hereditary chiefs in our governance—are properly left with the Wet'suwet'en. Our communities have been working on these matters for years, and we'll resolve them in our way. As a community, we need to implement a process in which the Wet'suwet'en create a decision-making model, a process for major projects. We need a system that will allow us to work together toward economic reconciliation, job creation and the rebuilding of our nation as well. We need a new model.
The Indian Act targeted us as women, and continued violence targets us as women, both within and outside our communities. While supporting decolonization as part of reconciliation, supporters of indigenous people must also support efforts to combat sexism and the continued oppression of Indian women.
We respectfully demand accountability and procedural fairness from the hereditary chiefs representing the Office of the Wet'suwet'en. We ask the government to help us to provide the resources necessary for our nation to co-develop a path forward for economic reconciliation that is inclusive, democratic, open and fair, as you can see in your government's system. You have this system; we do not have a system of fairness.
We have a way forward. We call for a community-wide meeting and for the protesters to stop misrepresenting the Wet'suwet'en. We are ready for a new system of governance that is inclusive of our nation.
I realize that you've heard a lot of things here today. I agree with John Borrows on the principles, but those principles must be part of our nation's dialogue, and we haven't had the ability to really dialogue with our nation. We don't have a mechanism in place where everybody has a say, and when everybody knows what the topic being discussed is. It has been decided by a group of people without the community and without the nation's input.
We've come to the eleventh hour, when all of a sudden the minister has come to the table and talked to the five groups of people who have not actually had our permission to do so.
It's the communities that say what should happen, and hereditary chiefs do not act alone. They take direction from the membership. What we are facing, as Wet'suwet'en, is a lack of a mechanism in place whereby everybody would have a say in a democratic, open and fair way.
Currently, under the system of having clan meetings, when you have 20 people at a meeting.... Currently Likhts’amisyu is under Warner Naziel's leadership—who took the name from the rightful owner, Gloria George. He has a meeting, and 20 people say, “Yes, go ahead”. These small meetings do not make a decision for our nation, so I am here to talk to Minister Bennett and ministers to try to create a mechanism where we are all informed and all involved in whatever decision has to be made with respect to our communities. Title and rights exist within Wet'suwet'en. They haven't gone away. These agreements will not change the fact that today my clan and my house can go and protest.
I think the best way forward is for the government to think of how these governance models fit in today's world. We cannot go back 100 years—and, in fact, these meetings are oppressive to our nation. We feel like we are stuck in the 1800s. We need to move forward economically. We need to have the benefits from our land. We need to be able to have equity stakes in our projects that come forward. We need to benefit from them, and we don't have a mechanism in our community to address that particular problem. Title and rights, yes, we need to address that, but we also need a mechanism to make decisions today about these projects that are coming down the pike.
View Leah Gazan Profile
I will be splitting my time with Ms. Ashton.
I wanted to start with a question for you, Ms. Tait-Day. Thank you for being here today. I wanted to start by saying that as an indigenous woman, I echo your concerns that often our voices are muzzled. It's a fine time that our voices are lifted up. I wanted to honour that and honour that experience.
I know that you mentioned that the current relationship with the hereditary chiefs has had issues that reflect the patriarchy, but as you know, the Indian Act structure is also reflective of patriarchal domination. It continues to contain policies that continue to violate the human rights of indigenous women.
This is my question: In stating this, do you believe the way forward is to get rid of the Indian Act and replace it with the human rights contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? That also includes the right to self-determination over our economic, social and cultural development.
Theresa Tait Day
View Theresa Tait Day Profile
Theresa Tait Day
2020-03-10 13:16
Absolutely, I do agree with that. You have to remember that we have been living in a state of oppression for 150 years. It's going to take a long time for people to have the ability and the confidence to move out of that oppression. We haven't had that. Instead, we are being oppressed by these males who want to make decisions for the entire nation and to leave women out of that dialogue. That is not our way. They have changed the way they do it. They have actually bullied our women. They have taken the names of three of our women. They say they've taken mine, but they haven't; I am a hereditary chief. Names are passed through the family. You cannot go and take somebody else's name and call yourself a hereditary chief. That's not how it works.
The problem here is that.... What we need is something like the Cree example, where they have a governance system in place. We need a governance system that is inclusive of our nation.
View Leah Gazan Profile
I would agree. I would also mention that that particular system—that whole framework—is within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Leah Gazan Profile
I say this because I find that this country has a history of colonial interference that causes conflict within communities. Do you think that the government should stop interfering with this process and allow the Wet'suwet'en peoples to make decisions on their own?
I say that because I'm wondering if this would have even been brought up as a motion about the hereditary chiefs if they were the ones supporting LNG, not the Indian Act chiefs. I see that conflict occurring. It's disturbing. I want to hear your thoughts about that.
Theresa Tait Day
View Theresa Tait Day Profile
Theresa Tait Day
2020-03-10 13:18
I believe our communities and our nation need to work toward a governance model. That is true, but we're facing historical oppression. I think we need to work that out before we can even come to a decision about how we're going to manage ourselves. We cannot have these males telling us that this is the way forward. We agree on aboriginal rights and titles, but it has to be a process.
View Leah Gazan Profile
I totally agree. I would say the same patriarchal human rights violations need to stop against indigenous women in the Indian Act.
I'm going to pass it over to my colleague, Niki Ashton.
View Niki Ashton Profile
Thank you to all of the witnesses here today.
My question is for you, Dr. Borrows. Many of us have reflected on how this is a moment in history that outlines the way in which the federal government has disrespected the issues of land and title in this specific case. It also shines a light on the way in which so many rights around land and title are still unresolved.
Could you perhaps reflect on how important it is for the federal government to not just get this right, but to get it right when it comes to all first nations across this country?
I know you did speak to the importance of the UN declaration—I'm very proud to be part of a political team that has championed this—and how important it is to not water down the kind of framework that the UN declaration provides, including the importance of free, prior, and informed consent, including acknowledging the right to land and title. I'm wondering if you can speak to how important it for us to get this right and move forward.
John Borrows
View John Borrows Profile
John Borrows
2020-03-10 13:20
This is a groundbreaking moment. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides the principles and processes to be able to get it right. The recognition of nations can occur through the declaration in a way that would allow for communities to deal with the local and often widespread sexism and lateral violence. That would incentivize communities to take the steps they need through time to get out from under the Indian Act. It's not a threat to economic development. In fact, there will be easier ways of approaching communities if, rather than going to 634 bands, they consolidate their relationships with one another. There would be a clarity that surrounds that.
It's also the case that it's not just rights and title that can carry us forward, as the courts have identified them. We need statutory direction as well to obligate the government to live in accordance with those principles. For me, that declaration is a path forward.
I read an op-ed in The Globe and Mail yesterday from Brian Pallister suggesting that the declaration could take us away from economic development. I think the reason we're in the circumstances we're in is that the current law is not working. If we were to bring forward the human rights instrument, that would be the path forward. I've been trying to explain that when indigenous peoples exercise their own laws, in the case here of the Wiikwemkoong, there are principles and processes that guide this that are respectful, humble, truthful, brave, loving, honest and wise. I appreciate those examples that come to us from coast to coast to coast when indigenous peoples can exercise their own laws.
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