Quotulatiousness

January 25, 2013

Canada and the First Nations — separate nations, separate worlds

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:56

In the Globe and Mail, Tom Flanagan explains why the Idle No More protestors insisted on negotiating with the Governor-General:

Actually, native leaders’ focus on the governor-general as the representative of the Crown is based not on a lack of information about the Constitution but on a different understanding of it. They know perfectly well that the prime minister and government of the day are installed by the political process of the nation of Canada, but they don’t see themselves as part of that process and that nation. They see themselves as separate nations, dealing with Canada on a “nation to nation” basis. They see the Crown as a governmental structure above Canada – and therefore the authority with whom they should deal.

Sovereign nations do not legislate for each other; they voluntarily agree to sign treaties after negotiations. The radical conclusion from this premise is that Parliament has no right to legislate for aboriginal people without first getting their consent. Hence the hue and cry about consultation and the demand to repeal those parts of the government’s Budget Implementation acts that allegedly impinge on aboriginal and treaty rights. Today’s claim is that Parliament had no right to amend the Indian Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act before consulting with (read: getting the approval of) first nations. But the same claim could be made regarding any legislation, for all laws made by Parliament affect native people. Enforcement of the Criminal Code arguably affects aboriginal rights by putting large numbers of aboriginal people in jail, and so on.

This indigenist ideology is not new. It started to appear in the 1970s, as a reaction to Jean Chrétien’s 1969 White Paper, which proposed repealing treaties and abolishing the special legal status of Indians. In its usual well-meaning but sometimes witless way, the Canadian political class thought it could deal with the reaffirmation of indigenism through word magic. Adopt the vocabulary of the radicals. Start calling Indian bands “first nations.” Pretend to recognize their “inherent right of self-government” or even “sovereignty.”

January 19, 2013

Infighting among the factions of the Assembly of First Nations

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

In the Toronto Star, Tim Harper recounts the behind-the-scenes battles currently going in the Assembly of First Nations:

As he rode to a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Friday, Shawn Atleo’s Blackberry buzzed.

“Since you have decided to betray me, all I ask of you now is to help carry my cold dead body off this island,” the text message said.

It was sent in the name of Chief Theresa Spence, but those who saw the text believe it came from someone else in her circle on Victoria Island.

But they were certain about one thing — the timing, moments before he went into one of the most important meetings of his life, was meant to destabilize the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and undermine his efforts at a meeting which many in his organization fiercely opposed.

The missive distilled two vicious strains coursing through the internal fighting at the AFN — the threats and intimidation under which its leadership is functioning, and the growing sense from some that the Attawapiskat chief, now entering day 38 of a liquid diet with the temperature dipping to -27C here, is being used as a pawn in an internal political struggle.

To attend last week’s meeting Atleo already had to leave his Ottawa office from a back door to get out of a building with angry chiefs trying to blockade him inside.

He would have to enter the Langevin Block for the meeting through a back door for the same reason.

There have been no shortage of charges, countercharges and denials within the organization over the past weeks and the truth in this saga is often elusive.

January 17, 2013

Ibbitson: First Nations must prioritize political agenda to achieve anything

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:18

In the Globe and Mail John Ibbitson lays out the possible and impossible goals and explains why it’s crucial for First Nations to work on the possible goals while there’s still momentum:

In that sense, it might be helpful to look at the disparate demands of the various factions claiming to represent native Canadians living on reserve, in an effort to separate the “deliverables” from the “non-deliverables.”

One key demand is that the Harper government withdraw a raft of legislation, including budget bills that have been passed, that native leaders claim weaken environmental protections and otherwise impair the lives and rights of their people.

Rescinding the budget bills, C-45 and C-38, is 100-per-cent non-deliverable. The Harper government is not going to repeal its budget. No government of any stripe ever would.

But other bills have not been passed. The First Nations Transparency Act, which would require band leaders to publicly report their income, is before the Senate. Native leaders consider its provision onerous and unfair. The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act aims to improve drinking water safety on reserves, but lacks sufficient funding in the eyes for first nations leaders. It’s still before the Commons. And there are other bills as well.

First Nations leaders would be wise to identify which legislation the Harper government might be convinced to amend, and press for those amendments.

The Assembly of First Nations, in its lists of demands, emphasizes the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. This is eminently deliverable; native leaders should push hard for it.

Mr. Harper has agreed to take personal charge of negotiations around treaty and land claims. He is known to be personally frustrated with what he sees as an obstructionist bureaucracy at Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. A new and expedited process for resolving claims is deliverable, provided first nations leaders agree in return that resource development is vital to Canada’s and first nations’ economic future.

Any agenda item that requires amending the constitution is completely non-deliverable: after Charlottetown and Meech Lake, Canadians are highly averse to any constitutional tinkering. This limits some aspects of First Nations’ concern, but other areas can and should be addressed. (As pointed out in the article above, revenue sharing from natural resources is a provincial matter, so beating up the feds on that topic is a waste of time and effort.)

Another major factor holding back any chances of meaningful change are the divisions within the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and opposition to the AFN’s leadership from outside the AFN itself. For details, see Terry Glavin’s most recent article in the Ottawa Citizen.

January 12, 2013

Terry Glavin: Pick a side

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:02

In the Ottawa Citizen, Terry Glavin explains why you need to be on Team Idle or Team Devil:

It all sounds so wonderfully simple. On the one side, we have Canada, a genocidal, racist, colonial settler state that just wants to rape the land and poison the water. On the other, we have sacred indigenous nations that just want to protect Turtle Island and be spiritual about everything. Now, pick a side.

Thank you, Idle No More. Joining a “revolution” has never been so easy, and already, the ramparts are being breached. Prime Minister Stephen Harper hosts a delegation from the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations on Friday. It’s actually a meeting the AFN was supposed to have had with Harper some time ago, but never mind that.

Don’t spoil the excitement.

This is not to say that there’s been nothing worthwhile about the impromptu flash-mobbing and the aboriginal-themed block parties that have been breaking out randomly all over the place in recent weeks.

Nobody’s in charge. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. Wow!

What will happen next? Besides, it’s been almost wholly peaceful and lawful and fun.

But to imagine this as a progressive “movement” requires a certain suspension of disbelief. There are just too many bothersome little contradictions that have to be kept off camera or the whole thing falls apart.

Is the fact that a meeting took place a victory?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:08

Andrew Coyne on Friday’s comic opera performance by the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations:

It’s not yet clear precisely what the Prime Minister and Assembly of First Nations chiefs accomplished at their meeting Friday, but the fact that they met at all, after the tumult and confusion of the preceding 24 hours, must be counted as achievement enough.

Rarely has the penchant of native leaders for what a former prime minister’s chief of staff, Derek Burney, has called “theology” been on such open display. The whole future of the country seemed to hang on whether ministers and chiefs met in a hotel or in a government building, or whether the Prime Minister and the Governor-General attended at the same time or in sequence.

In the process, it became more evident than ever just how divided the AFN has become: among the other unresolved matters as I write are the future of AFN chief Shawn Atleo and, one has to think, the AFN itself, with much of the organization now in open revolt against his leadership. The proxy issue may have been whether to attend the meeting, but the broader conflict is foundational.

By their decision to participate, Atleo and his supporters were not just staring down the demands of what I’ve called the fundamentalists, many of whom have taken up the flag of the Idle No More movement. They were casting their lot with a more pragmatic, forward-looking vision of natives’ future. By no means were they signing onto the whole of the present government’s reform agenda, but they were signalling a willingness to work with it. That took enormous courage, and it is vitally important that the government respond in kind.

January 9, 2013

What does “status” mean in the Canadian First Nations context?

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:23

If you’re confused by the current debate over First Nations people and their relationship with the Crown, you’ll probably want to read âpihtawikosisân‘s explanation of “status” and other terms-of-law that are used in these discussions:

It has been my experience that many Canadians do not understand the difference between Status and membership, or why so many different terms are used to refer to native peoples. The confusion is understandable; this is a complex issue and the terms used in any given context can vary greatly. Many people agree that the term ‘Indian’ is a somewhat outdated and inappropriate descriptor and have adopted the presently more common ‘First Nations’. It can seem strange then when the term ‘Indian’ continues to be used, in particular by the government, or in media publications. The fact that ‘Indian’ is a legislative term is not often explained.

As a Métis, I find myself often answering questions about whether or not I have Status, which invariably turns into an explanation about what Status means in the Canadian context. The nice thing is, as time passes, fewer people ask me this because it does seem that the information is slowly getting out there into the Canadian consciousness.

To help that process along, I figured I’d give you the quick and dirty explanation of the different categories out there. Well…quick is subjective, I am after all notoriously long-winded.

H/T to Andrew Coyne, who retweeted the link from @romeoinottawa.

January 7, 2013

“[N]o person in Canada stands above or outside of the law”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Media, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:09

Christie Blatchford on the inability of Canadian police to shut down protests by First Nations groups that violated the law:

Saying “I do not get it,” an Ontario Superior Court judge Monday bemoaned the passivity of Ontario police forces on illegal native barricades and issued a lament for the state of law-and-order in the nation.

“…no person in Canada stands above or outside of the law,” Judge David Brown said in a decision that was alternately bewildered and plaintive.

“Although that principle of the rule of law is simple, at the same time it is fragile. Without Canadians sharing a public expectation of obeying the law, the rule of law will shatter.”

Judge Brown was formally giving his reasons for having granted CN Rail an emergency injunction last Saturday night, when the railway rushed to court when Idle No More protesters blocked the Wymans Road crossing on the main line between Toronto and Montreal.

January 5, 2013

Jeffrey Simpson on the First Nations’ “Dream Palace”

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:19

I didn’t expect to read this in the Globe and Mail which is usually an institution that discusses First Nations issues very carefully indeed:

Large elements of aboriginal Canada live intellectually in a dream palace, a more comfortable place than where they actually reside.

Inside the dream palace, there are self-reliant, self-sustaining communities — “nations,” indeed — with the full panoply of sovereign capacities and the “rights” that go with sovereignty. These “nations” are the descendants of proud ancestors who, centuries ago, spread across certain territories before and, for some period, after the “settlers” arrived.

Today’s reality, however, is so far removed in actual day-to-day terms from the memories inside the dream palace as to be almost unbearable. The obvious conflict between reality and dream pulls some aboriginals to warrior societies; others to a rejection of dealing with the “Crown” at all; others to fights for the restoration of “rights” that, even if defined, would make little tangible difference in the lives of aboriginal people; and still others, such as Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, to go on a hunger strike.

Chief Spence, leading a group or “nation” of about 1,500 people on the shores of James Bay, demanded at the beginning of her strike a series of meetings with the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. This demand reflected a very old and very wrong idea (part of dream-palace thinking) that the “Crown” is somehow an independent agency with which aboriginal “nations” have a direct relationship, whereas the “Crown” is nothing of the sort.

The “Crown” is the Government of Canada, a matter of clearly established constitutional law, which is why Chief Spence made her demand to meet the Prime Minister, too. Stephen Harper was correct in refusing a face-to-face meeting, since a prime minister should not be blackmailed into doing what any group or individual wants.

December 28, 2012

Colby Cosh: the hunger strike

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

In Maclean’s, Colby Cosh explains how hunger strikes should be run and why there are some serious concerns about the ongoing hunger strike in Ottawa:

For a hunger striker to appeal for personal funds — in this case, for contributions to a bank account that has her boyfriend’s name on it — distorts the perceived integrity of the enterprise and throws its basis into doubt. Supporters of the hunger strike are placed in the position of mere financial promoters, no matter how intensely they leer at the striking individual. To make matters worse, we’ve been confronted with a visible disagreement between two spokesmen for Chief Spence. The only source of personal statements from the chief is her Twitter feed, and she does not even appear to have complete control of that. Does she have a single designated spokesperson to exercise authority in the event she falls unconscious or becomes otherwise unable to communicate? Who is it? Is she taking the advice of a physician and having her health monitored? This is an important issue if she intends to forestall permanent physical harm in the hope that her demands will actually be met at some point.

Of course, if the demands aren’t in earnest and the whole thing is no more than a publicity ploy, there is no danger to the Chief and we can ignore the theatrics. In the meantime, give till it hurts, I guess?

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