As I wrote in my last newsletter (FNSB Vol.10, Issues 7-10) on September 4, 2012, Prime Minister Harper launched three new policy measures intended to speed up Canada’s longstanding Plan to Terminate First Nations Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
Termination -- in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal coercion of First Nations into Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment (through modification) of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
Canada’s Termination Plan was ramped up on September 4, 2012, through these three policy measures among other federal initiatives, including:
1. First Nation regional and national political organizations will have their core funding cut and capped. For regional First Nation political organizations the core funding will be capped at $500,000 annually
2. First Nation Band and Tribal Council funding for advisory services will be eliminated over the next two years
3. A "results based" approach to negotiating Modern Treaties and Self-Government Agreements.
There was an internal federal assessment process that ended on March 31, 2013, of 93 negotiation tables, involving 403 Indian Bands/Non Status/Metis with a combined population of 331,945, across Canada, to determine who will and who won’t agree to terminate Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights under the terms of Canada’s Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies.
For those tables who were deemed not in agreement with Canada’s "core mandates," the process was to end as the federal government withdrew negotiations and funding to the "unproductive table."
Note: Since all 93 of these Termination Tables are still listed on the AANDC website as of the end of September 2013, one can only assume all of the listed negotiation tables have agreed to accept the Harper government’s core negotiating Comprehensive Claims/Self-Government mandates and desired results, which are comprised of the following key tenets:
- Accept the extinguishment (modification) of Aboriginal Title
- Accept the legal release of Crown liability for past violations of Aboriginal Title and Rights
- Accept elimination of Indian Reserves by accepting lands in fee simple
- Accept removing on-reserve tax exemptions
- Respect existing Private Lands/Third Party Interests (and therefore alienation of Aboriginal Title territory without compensation)
- Accept (to be assimilated into) existing federal and provincial orders of government
- Accept application of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms over governance and institutions in all matters
- Accept funding on a formula basis being linked to own source revenue
Other measures too, essentially accepting to become Aboriginal municipalities. [Adapted from Federal Powerpoint entitled "Results Based Approach to Canada’s Participation in Treaty and Self-Government Negotiations - Engagement Process"]
On top of the internal federal assessment of the willingness of negotiation tables to agree to the federal Termination Plan and the spending cuts to First Nation organizations and bands, the Harper government has used its majority in Parliament and the Senate to pass these Bills:
- Bill C-27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act -- Forces public release of consolidated audits, including payments to Chiefs/Councillors and band’s own source revenues to business competitors and gives more powers to AANDC Minister
- Bill C-45: Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 -- Omnibus Bill includes Indian Act amendments relaxing procedures for voting on-Reserve lands surrenders to facilitate on-Reserve commercial developments. Also amended Navigable Waters and Fisheries Acts weakening federal oversight and environmental protections
- Bill S-2: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act -- Imposes provincial matrimonial/land management laws on-reserve unless/until band laws replace provincial law, costing extra money for bands and many bands don’t have extra money due to funding caps and cuts. Doesn’t address related issues of housing shortages, family violence and the need for community-based dispute resolution mechanisms
- Bill S-8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act -- Creates regulations regarding First Nations drinking water, but not the capacity to comply
These new federal laws were all drafted as part of the Harper government’s plan to gradually eliminate status Indians by advancing the Conservative ideology of promoting individual rights to undermine collective or group rights, rather than encouraging a balance between individual and collective rights.
Another longstanding federal policy objective is the gradual elimination of Indian Reserves by converting reserve lands into fee simple (private) lands for eventual inclusion into the provincial land tenure system.
So, relaxing the Reserve land surrender requirements, expanding the application of the First Nations Land Management Act, to dozens of bands -- an interim step towards converting Reserve lands into fee simple lands -- and imposing provincial laws on Reserve for matrimonial real property are all part of the federal government’s First Nations Termination Plan.
Prorogation of Parliament and Announcement of Harper’s Remaining Priorities
On September 13, 2013, the Governor-General prorogued Parliament at Prime Minister Harper’s request. This delay in the resumption of Parliament allows time for the Harper government to prepare for the final two year phase of its mandate as a government.
For those of you who don’t know what prorogation means, the Parliament of Canada website explains the political implications:
The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to end business. All government bills that have not received Royal Assent prior to prorogation cease to exist; committee activity also ceases. Thus, no committee can sit after a prorogation. . . In order for government bills to be proceeded with in a new session, they must be reintroduced as new bills or they may be reinstated, if the House agrees to this. . . The Standing Orders provide for the automatic reinstatement of all items of Private Members' Business in a new session. Committee work may also be revived either by motion in the House, or in committee, depending upon the nature of the study. [emphasis added]
So as we can see from the above statement, Prime Minister Harper can use his majority in the House of Commons and the Senate to reintroduce and pass the Conservative’s First Nations Bills that didn’t pass before Prorogation.
It also seems that Rob Clarke’s private member’s Bill among others will be automatically reinstated in the new session of Parliament:
- Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act -- Private Conservative MP’s Bill, but supported by Harper government. Amends provisions of the Indian Act including repealing provision which limit bylaw authority and require submission to the Minister before they can come into force; repeals provisions related to residential schools and repeals provisions that give the Minister authority over the handling of wills and estates on reserves. Sets out in preamble a commitment to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act and continuing work in "exploring creative options for the development of this new legislation in collaboration with the First Nations organizations that have demonstrated an interest in this work." Establishes a requirement for the Minister to report annually on efforts to replace sections of the Indian Act with modern amendments or legislation.
There will be a throne speech on tomorrow October 16, 2013 setting out the Harper government’s priorities for the next two years, and Prime Minister Harper has already publicly stated his top priority continues to be jobs and the economy.
Of course Canada’s economy is based upon lands and resources stolen from First Nations without compensation or benefit to them except through Canada’s Land Claims and Self-Government Termination Policies.
Reportedly, the throne speech will include references to a First Nations Education Act and the First Nations Property Ownership (Conversion of Reserve Lands to Fee Simple) Act. We will only know for sure on tomorrow when the Throne Speech is read by the Governor-General.
In any event, Canada’s Termination Plan, which is reflected in federal policies, legislation and continued use of the Indian Act (with amendments) for maintaining Ottawa’s management and control system of First Nations, is being implemented without resistance or protest by those Chiefs and First Nation leaders in federal negotiations -- including AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo and the AFN Executive Committee.
Russell Diabo is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and editor of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin.
This excerpt originally appear in the article 'Idling Some More' in the First Nations Strategic Bulletin and is reprinted with permission.
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