On This Day in Our History: Minister accused of abuse of power

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 11:57am



Dec. 11, 2002

Saying he has abused his power by dealing punitively with First Nations that don't co-operate with him, First Nation chiefs decided to take their complaints about Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault to Parliament's ethics commissioner, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Auditor General of Canada and the Prime Minister.

The plan was revealed at a press conference on the second day of the Assembly of First Nations' Confederacy meeting held in Ottawa from Dec. 10 to 12, 2003.

National Chief Matthew Coon Come was flanked by Grand Chief Margaret Swan of Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization, Six Nations Chief Roberta Jamieson, Ontario Vice-Chief Charles Fox, Robinson Huron Regional Chief Glen Hare, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy and Treaty 3 Grand Chief Leon Jourdain as he made the announcement.

All the chiefs told stories of being punished by the minister, they say, because they have resisted his First Nations governance act (FNGA) legislation.

Beardy pointed out that the Pikangikum First Nation was in a surplus position when it was placed in third party management by the minister. The Federal Court of Canada recently ruled the decision was contrary to departmental policy.

"The people of Pikangikum and Nishnawbe Aski, we thought there were no checks and balances for the minister. For that reason, the Pikangikum First Nation took the minister to court to challenge his decision," Beardy said.

Grand Chief Jourdain said the court decision is proof of misconduct by the minister.

“I believe that the minister has abused his power as confirmed by the decision that was made in court by way of Pikangikum,” he said.

Jourdain claimed the minister withdrew funding from Treaty 3 after he helped organize a rally against the governance act in the minister's own riding. Nault recently suspended self-government negotiations with Treaty 3, saying the discussions were going nowhere.

"The minister has refused to meet with myself. The minister has refused to answer any phone calls or respond to any letters. The minister is going on the grounds that there's no progress made in our territory," the grand chief said.

"A year ago his own federal negotiator asked permission to make a presentation on the Treaty 3 model and vision on negotiations and methodology as an option for other areas across the country. A year ago, INAC encouraged Treaty 3 to accompany academics and INAC officials on a cross-Canada promotional tour to highlight success."

This, Jourdain added, was after Treaty 3 won an award for management excellence.

"It is very clear to myself and to the chiefs that as a result of my position on the FNGA that the minister is personally attacking myself and those grand chiefs that stand for the inherent rights and sovereign rights of our people. I believe the minister has abused his power and will continue to abuse his power. I believe the Canadian people have a right to know the type of abuses that we're subjected to," he said.

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