Time to make things right

Xavier use

It is always difficult to figure out what is happening with major issues in government, politics and how people are affected. A recent issue I have been watching develop really makes me wonder how bright our leaders in government are. The federal government, which has actually been doing a fairly good job in dealing with Indigenous people in this country, really went off the rails when they decided it was a good idea to push through legislation regarding the Métis Government Recognition and Self Government Agreement.

The only thing the government did with this move was to create division and conflict between people. More importantly, the government also made this move without any consultation or participation of Indigenous leaders, organizations and peoples. The chiefs of Wabun Tribal Council dealt with this negative effort by the government by taking them to court as their only means to stop this questionable and non-inclusive legislation.

The tribal council is supported in their arguments with other First Nations and Tribal Councils, including Robinson-Huron Waawiindamaagewin, Grand Council Treaty #3, Temagami First Nation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Association of Manitoba Chiefs. During their recent Chiefs-in-Assembly session, the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Assembly, which represents 39 First Nations in the Ontario Great Lakes region, passed a resolution that also rejected the Métis Self Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement between the Métis Nation of Ontario and Canada in its current form.

What on earth is the federal government thinking? After all the terror of colonization, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and keeping my people marginalized and poverty stricken for hundreds of years, the government decides to pass legislation that affects Indigenous treaties without any consultation with us and without our participation.

It seems that perhaps saner heads might be prevailing as this issue of this draconian legislation is brewing, but as far as I know there has not been a meeting of minds in terms yet of pausing legislation and satisfying First Nation leaders, chiefs, councils and peoples so that their voice is heard and concerns met.

As I have pointed out, this government has in my experience done well on many levels in dealing with Indigenous peoples, treaties and our rights although there are sill many issues that must be dealt with in terms of treaty negotiations and righting the wrongs of a few hundred years of colonization. This is not a Conservative government that has stomped on our rights and created conflict. We also have the benefit of a minority government on the federal level, which helps in making sure that the Indigenous friendly New Democratic Party can hold the federal government to task.

On a more positive viewpoint, it has been announced that a ten billion dollar settlement agreed to by the federal and Ontario provincial government is planned to meet the claim by the chiefs of the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. This is to meet the claims of 21 Robinson Huron First Nations concerning unpaid annuities for using Indigenous lands historically.

For more than a hundred years as set out in an historical treaty with Robinson Huron First Nations, their members were paid annual amounts per person of only four dollars. Incredibly that amount has not increased in so many years although governments, resource extraction corporations and other business have seen billions in wealth attained though initiatives on Indigenous lands. Here is an example of a fair meeting of minds and meaningful compensation to right past wrongs. I and many more Indigenous people across the country salute the federal and provincial government for settling this injustice in a good way. Now also I look forward to this process developing to its just result while I know myself and Indigenous leaders, organizations and people across Canada are looking at this as a precedent as we all were cheated with the same pay system of a pittance over more than a hundred years.

The last thing we need in this country is more division and more conflict and it is good to see that governments do realize that any policy that promotes this negative reality can only lead to terrible results. On the other hand, consulting with Indigenous leadership and peoples will create an environment of trust and lead to financial growth, resource development and a more fair sharing of wealth for us all. It is time to make things right.