National Chief – AFN
During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Based upon the content of this document, I called a press conference and subsequently handed-out copies of my outline of the document's content as presented by the Minister of Indian Affairs, Ron Irwin.
My decision to release this outline is based on a number of reasons. It is my firm belief that the federal government is not living up to its stated commitment of a fair, open and meaningful dialogue with First Nations on some of the long outstanding fundamental issues affecting First Nations. The outright refusal of DIAND to release this document flies in the face of federal rhetoric regarding a new relationship with First Nations based on full disclosure and transparency of information.
Governments plan their activities far in advance. If this document contains the sum of First Nations consultations, and possible with other associated groups, should it be kept from the people most affected? Should the First Nations and their leadership be denied right of access to a document that details the federal self-government agenda? Of course not! This document must rest firmly in the hands of First Nations if meaningful discussion, debate and hopefully, resolution is to take place.
During a chance encounter with the Minister Irwin, he allowed me to review a written summary of the document in question. It is my understanding, which has yet to be confirmed, that this document has already been shared with the provinces and other First Nations groups. I wonder aloud, whether Minister Irwin will return to Cabinet claiming that a thorough and complete consultation with First Nations has now produced a "final" solution to the Indian problem.
First Nations are long past accepting the notion that the "Great White Father" knows what is best for our communities, our organizations and our nation-states. Further, it isamazing to see the 1969 White Paper reappear in 1995 with a new coat of paint. The First Nations' fight against assimilation policies is now afoot.
The "Red Book", the supposed benchmark of the Liberal Government was explicit in its detailing of how the Liberals would resolve outstanding issues like the inherent right to self-government and treaty resolution. Unfortunately, as has always occurred in the past, federal promises remain empty and unfulfilled. It no longer matters which government First Nations confront, their intentions to diminish and ultimately limit our collective rights remains the same. The Charlottetown Accord set a benchmark for Aboriginal people in terms of our collective rights. The current Liberal government's approach is blatantly regressive and distant from the content of Charlottetown.
The recent last minute refusal of the Minister of Health to sign the Health Framework agreement with Manitoba First Nations on the basis that Health is not a Treaty Right indicates a severe lack of good faith. This agreement had been in negotiations for over two years and is proof positive that there is no intention of this government to resolve the fundamental issues of treaty rights and is in fact doing everything in its power to distance itself from these issues. Similar to the Buffalo Jump tactics of the mid 1980's, the process of dumping administrative control of under-funded federal programs and services to First Nations communities and organizations without recognition of these services as rights continues unabated. Our rights are now being defined by senior and middle management bureaucrats via internal policy development processes that do not include First Nations.
That is why, I have chosen the tactic of going public with our demand for Minister Irwin to release immediately his government's strategy document for defining and imposing self-government. I ask that you read the following outline carefully and you will understand as I do, that the federal agenda is proceeding with or without First Nations input. I would like to get your input on the content of this document so that we can publish them in a forthcoming issues of AFN-NEWS. So please write or fax your comments to:
AFN – NEWS
c/o Jean LaRose
55 Murray St., 5th
(613) 241-6333 FAX
the words of Tecumseh in his plea for a united Indian front as he
spoke to the Osage in 1811, when he said:
– We all belong to one family; we are all children of the Great
Spirit; we walk in the same path; slake our thirst at the same
spring; and now affairs of the greatest concern lead us to smoke the
pipe around the same council fire!
– We are friends; we must assist each other to bear our
burdens. The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like
water on the ground, to satisfy the avarice of the white men. We,
ourselves are threatened with a great evil; nothing will pacify them
but the destruction of all the red men.
– If you do not unite with us, they will destroy us, and then
you will fall easy prey to them. They have destroyed many nations of
red men because they were not united, because they were not friends
to each other.
The only difference between then and now is that the genocide of First Nations cultures is based on policy and paper, not guns and ammunition. Can First Nations together fend off another full frontal attack on our collective rights?