Indigenous reports force feds ahead of UN review

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75% of reports to Committee on racial discrimination sent by Indigenous organizations.

Last week, Canada switched arrogance and condescension for gestures of off-kilter desperation at the Assembly of First Nations’ general assembly. That is probably because on August 14 and 15, Canada will be under the microscope at UN headquarters in Geneva. Fifteen Indigenous Peoples’ organizations have already submitted extensive reports for the Session, detailing Canada’s “seek and destroy” approach to their internationally recognized human rights.

It is a typical Canadian tactic to invent meaningless distractions right before a review by a UN treaty body: their delegates to the Session can then reply to the Committee’s independent experts by talking about “initiatives” or “joint meetings” which do not substantially exist, instead of answering directly.

This time Canada sent four federal ministers to the AFN’s annual assembly, July 25-27, where they implied that Ottawa is going to rescind the Indian Act. Bennett (Minister of Indigenous Affairs), Wilson-Raybould (Minister of Justice), McKenna (Environment) and Goodale (Public Safety), all made vague references to bright promises yet to come.

The only concrete message from Ottawa to the AFN Chiefs – only half of whom showed up at the all-expense-paid meeting in Regina – was that it will no longer claw back unused capital funds to First Nation communities after twelve months of dispersal.

This miserable material figure can and should be unsuccessfully compared to the immaterial, yet golden, future intimated by Bennett’s and Wilson-Raybould’s reported remarks.  “How will your nation and Indigenous government be organized? What is your territory?” Their remarks, on the other hand, will certainly be judged against the picture of Indigenous life under Canada which has been detailed in reports to the UN CERD.

“ Skeena watershed and coastal Indigenous communities depend on the salmon for food, their economies and cultures. This (LNG, Prince Rupert) project is a prime example of what’s wrong with Canada’s approach to engaging Indigenous communities in large-scale industrial developments: It continuously fails to honour the legal obligations to Indigenous Peoples in protecting their traditional resources; The Canadian government generally consults with Band Councils, which were created under the colonial Indian Act, and often fails to consult hereditary leadership or respect traditional governance systems; …”

. Skeena Indigenous Groups’ Submission to UN CERD. July 6, 2017

It is interesting to note that only weeks after this report to the CERD was posted for the Session, Petronas announced its withdrawal from this proposed project, “Pacific NorthWest LNG.”

The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has dealt Canada sharp rebukes over the last two decades: stop extinguishing Indigenous Peoples’ titles; stop ignoring murderers who target Indigenous women; stop trying to destroy the Lubicon Cree to get oil access.

The UN treaty bodies have an internationally recognized judicial power to issue recommendations to member states in keeping with upholding international human rights conventions. Each committee periodically receives reports from the state under review, and also from non-governmental organizations, civil society, academia, and now from Indigenous Peoples’ organizations.

It is typically the reports from Indigenous Peoples and NGOs which have, in the past, resulted in strong recommendations from UN Committees to Canada. Many of those have produced changes in the government’s behaviour, although such changes have been isolated and usually only in direct connection to the issues reported. In British Columbia this includes instances of forgiveness of government treaty negotiation loans to small Bands; dissolution of treaty societies formed to negotiate in the BC treaty process – against community members’ protests; and possibly the current standstill in BC Treaty Commission business altogether.

Extinguishment “negotiations” are an ongoing problem that is at the center of the CERD’s focus on Canada:

“There are no viable options other than legal court action to counter the BCTC “treaty” process about these overlaps into St’át’imc territory. As negotiations with the outside First Nations progress, the eventual outcome will be the extinguishment of significant portions of St’át’imc territory without the St’át’imc having been involved in any negotiations to this effect.”

. SHADOW REPORT BY THE INTERIOR ALLIANCE: CANADA’S ONGOING                               COLONIZATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.   UN CERD COMMITTEE JULY 2017

In contradiction to the Interior Alliance’s extensive documentation of the extinguishment effect of Canadian “negotiations,” however, Minister Wilson-Raybould remarked to the press on her government’s plans: “They are explicit in rejecting certain long-standing federal positions—such as the focus on extinguishment, surrender or denial of rights.” Incidentally, that’s what Canada told the CERD in 2007.

 

Extinguishment, surrender and denial are precisely what Canada offers Indigenous Peoples. There is a veritable firestorm of examples of this, enveloping Indigenous Peoples. It is highly suspect that a Canadian Minister climbs a prominent national stage and says “we’re just about to change,” (again) only days before Canada has to answer a lot of very pointed questions in front of the world.

Consistent Canadian practices are to assimilate and co-opt economic development, to municipalize isolated communities under provincial legislation, to criminalize traditional economies, to rigidly maintain dependency by an overbearing and constantly metamorphosing bureaucracy which can never be finally functional. There is the “First Nations Land Codes” – where a community votes to recognize Canadian supremacy in its traditional territories, just for the privilege to enjoy managerial duties on-reserve. There are the “Strategic Land Use Planning Agreements” – where communities have shared maps of their territories showing cultural values and inadvertently given tacit approval to development in huge “low cultural value” lands. In the national Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, crucial voices have undoubtedly been denied. Indigenous Peoples’ rights under Article 1 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, and Social, Economic and Cultural Rights are completely denied. Canada specializes in the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their homes and communities, requiring parents and families to submit and surrender to provincial courts which have no jurisdiction whatsoever in the case of children and families who are not Canadian until they produce a referendum from their nation joining Canada.

Minister Wilson-Raybould, apparently speaking for those Indigenous individuals who have exercised their right to choose a nationality, appealed to the Chiefs to imagine their future as Canadians whose Indigenous rights are recognized and respected.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada expresses the state’s right to own Indigenous nations it has no treaties with. It is certainly a matter of interest in any investigation of racial discrimination. Apparently the key to Canada’s jurisdiction over nations with which it has no constructive agreements is owing to the fact that the British monarch, appointed by the Christian god, had sent a sailor with orders to discover and possess others’ lands in His name, and he was successful in this because the Christian god was superior, so the Supreme Court of Canada seems to say, to any of the existing nations’ gods. We know it is the presence of other Christian nations which is at issue in the matter of the Canadian court’s opinion on sovereign possession, because the issue was finally settled in 1846, according to Canadian judges, when the USA agreed in the Oregon Treaty to withdraw from pursuing any interests north of the 49th parallel. From that date, Great Britain and now Canada enjoys sovereign possession of all lands from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean above that parallel, except Alaska, as per SCC, because all other Christian nations had, by that time, also promised Great Britain they would pursue no interests there.

Unfortunately for that internationally repugnant display of Canadian faith, which is the state’s current legal precedent, it is not clear that any Indigenous Peoples have formally joined and adhered to Canada. Wilson-Raybould was referring to that popular understanding among the Chiefs. The CERD has been made aware of that understanding, and again in the reports for this Session:

“In particular, we bring to the Committee’s attention the state’s use of its own  imposed Indian Band administration, under the Indian Act, on the state-defined Indian Reserve, to manufacture the appearance of Líl’wat consent to Canada’s disposal of the remainder of Líl’wat customary titles to lands and wealth outside the Reserve.

“Líl’watmc ask that the Committee question Canada about the origins of any rights of jurisdiction it may have in relation to Líl’wat which could justify Canadian licensing and development without the consent and against the Interests of the Líl’watmc under the Convention, and resulting in the continuing displacement and dispossession of Líl’wat.”

Líl’wat report to UNCERD, July 2017, with the International Human Rights                                         Association of American Minorities

The picture developed by fifteen Indigenous Peoples’ organizations shows Canada’s unabated attempts to assimilate Indigenous Peoples – their worldview, identity, economies, individuals, children, histories, and especially their lands and natural wealth – into Canada. Unilateral, non-consensual assimilation is categorically prohibited as a matter of human rights norms, and yet that end of the spectrum of Canada’s colonization is not the worst.

“If Ontario and Canada insist on excluding us from meaningful consultations on the Agreement in Principle, then we insist that Canada and Ontario exclude the areas where our First Nations’ asserted Aboriginal title and rights overlap with the “Algonquins of Ontario” claims, or at least suspend negotiations over  such areas, until such time as we have engaged in meaningful consultations and reached an acceptable accommodation.

“Despite our objections in March 2016, the “Algonquins of Ontario”, Canada and Ontario have proceeded to hold a referendum vote on the AIP.”

ALGONQUIN NATION SECRETARIAT  TO THE UN CERD COMMITTEE                                                          July 2017

 

“How does one start to describe the horrific conduct of Canada in their relentless efforts to extinguish the rights of Indigenous peoples within their ancestral homelands?”

“While the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that the Canadian and provincial governments have a duty to consult, negotiate, and accommodate Indigenous rights, the governments use these consultation and negotiation processes to coerce, terrorize, terminate, extinguish, and discriminate against Indigenous peoples and our rights.”

Submission to the UNCERD 93rd Session, July 31-August 25, 2017.                                             On behalf of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Maliseet Nation

 

“Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek, also known as Grassy Narrows First Nation, is located on the English-Wabigoon River system in North Western Ontario, and is infamous for mercury contamination from an upstream pulp and paper mill. … In 2016, a former mill worker came forward to confess the mill had illegally buried barrels of waste along the river, leading to the persisting contamination and inability of the river system to recover naturally.”

Chiefs of Ontario report to UNCERD, July 2017

 

“On November 29, 2016, the Canadian Federal Cabinet directed the National Energy Board to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to the health, safety and livelihoods of First Nations throughout British Columbia, and will contribute to the negative environmental and health impacts experienced by Indigenous Peoples downstream of the tar sands, and of all peoples throughout the world as a result of accelerating global climate change. The Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Musqueam, Coldwater, Upper Nicola, Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc, Aithchelitz, Shxwhay Village, Yakweakwioose, Kwawkwaw-apilt, Tzeachten, Skowkale, Soowalie, and Squiala peoples have commenced legal proceedings seeking to challenge the federal approval for the Trans Mountain project… It is well established that diluted bitumen contains toxic chemicals that are a threat to drinking water, health, and the well-being of salmon and other beings.”

Submission to the UNCERD 93rd Session, 2017.                                                                                 Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Minister Bennett, for the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, said to the AFN Chiefs last week: “We want to partner with you on building on the strengths and assets you have in your communities. You have the power to determine the future of your communities.”

The international community is quite aware that Canada still wishes to build on the strengths and benefits belonging to Indigenous communities, whether Canada co-opts the participation of those communities through “benefits sharing” or “land management” or other agreements achieved under duress. The international community is also aware that Indigenous Peoples have the power to determine the future of their communities, and that Minister Bennett and her government may well have nothing to do with that.

As the Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ report articulated, “We are presently witnessing a great divide between the words of the Canadian government and its actions on the ground. We would like to highlight the term “rights ritualism” for the consideration of the Committee in respect to Canada’s present actions: a way of embracing the language of human rights precisely to deflect real human rights scrutiny and to avoid accountability for human rights abuses. Countries are often willing to accept human rights treaty commitments to earn international approval, but they resist the changes that the treaty obligations require.”

 

Living Treaties, Lasting Agreements. 1985

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This book, produced by the federal government, is now very hard to find.

It was written after the 1982 Canadian Constitution Act had been formalized, but before the failure of the First Ministers Conferences to implement a meaningful “Section 35” – where Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed. This is possibly the single most candid publication the Canadian government has produced concerning Indigenous rights, and it admits a lot of Indigenous rights which have disappeared from the federal discourse since the failure of Canada to legislate implementation of Section 35.

Comprehensive Claims – policy & protest

STATEMENT OF THE NISHGA NATION OR TRIBE OF INDIANS. 1913

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From time immemorial the Nishga Nation or Tribe of Indians possessed, occupied and used the territory generally known as the Valley of the Naas River, the boundaries of which are well defined. The claims which we make in respect of this territory are clear and simple. We lay claim to the rights of men. We claim to be aboriginal inhabitants of this country and to have rights as such. We claim that our aboriginal rights have been guaranteed by Proclamation of King George Third and recognized by Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain. We claim that holding under the words of that Proclamation a tribal ownership of the territory, we should be dealt with in accordance with its provision, and that no part of our lands should be taken from us or in any way disposed of until the same has been purchased by the Crown. By reason of our aboriginal rights above stated, we claim tribal ownership of all fisheries and other natural resources pertaining to the territory above-mentioned.

For more than twenty-five years, being convinced that the recognition of our aboriginal rights would be of very great material advantage to us and would open the way for the intellectual, social and industrial advance of our people, we have, in common with other tribes of British Columbia, actively pressed our claims upon the Governments concerned. In recent years, being more than ever convinced of the advantages to be derived from such recognition and fearing that without such the advance of settlement would endanger our whole future, we have pressed these claims with greatly increased earnestness.

Some of the advantages to be derived from establishing our aboriginal rights are

  1. That it will place us in a position to reserve for own use and benefit such portions of our territory as are required for the future well-being of our people.
  2. That it will enable us to a much greater extent and in a free and independent manner to make use of the fisheries and other natural resources pertaining to our territory.
  3. That it will open the way for bringing to an end as rapidly as possible the system of Reserves and substituting a system of individual ownership.
  4. That it will open the way for putting an end to all uncertainty and unrest, bringing about a permanent and satisfactory settlement between the white people and ourselves, and thus removing the danger of serious trouble which now undoubtedly exists.
  5. That it will open the way for our taking our place as not only loyal British subjects but also Canadian citizens, as for many years we have desired to do.

In thus seeking to realize what is highest and best for our people, we have encountered a very serious difficulty in the attitude which has been assumed by the Government of British Columbia. That Government has neglected and refused to recognize our claims, and for many years has been selling over our heads large tracts of our lands. We claim that every such transaction entered into in respect of any part of these lands under the assumed authority of the Provincial Land Act has been entered into in violation of the Proclamation above mentioned. These transactions have been entered into notwithstanding our protests, oral and written, presented to the Government of British Columbia, surveyors employed by that Government and intending purchasers.

The request of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia made through their Provincial Organization, that the matter of Indian title be submitted to the Judicial Committee of His Majesty’s Privy Council, having been before the Imperial Government and the Canadian Government for three years, and grave constitutional difficulties arising from the refusal of British Columbia to consent to a reference, having been encountered in dealing with that request, we resolved independently and directly to place a petition before His Majesty’s Privy Council. In following that course we desire to act to the fullest possible extent in harmony both with other tribes of British Columbia and with the Government of Canada.

We are informed that Mr. J. A. J. McKenna sent out by the Government of Canada has made a report in which he does not mention the claims which the Indians of the Province have been making for so many years, and assigns as the cause of all the trouble, the reversionary claim of the Province. Whatever other things Mr. McKenna found out during his stay, we are sure that he did not find out our mind or the real cause of the trouble. We are also informed of the agreement relating only to the so-called reserves which was entered into by Mr. McKenna and Premier McBride. We are glad from its provisions to know that the Province has expressed willingness to abandon to a large extent the reversionary claim which has been made. We cannot, however, regard that agreement as forming a possible basis for settling the land question. We cannot concede that the two Governments have power by the agreement in question or any other agreement to dispose of the so-called Reserves or any other lands of British Columbia, until the territory of each nation or tribe has been purchased by the Crown as required by the Proclamation of King George Third.

We are also informed that in the course of recent negotiations, the Government of British Columbia has contended that under the terms of Union the Dominion of Canada is responsible for making treaties with the Indian Tribes in settlement of their claims. This attempt to shift responsibility to Canada and by doing so render it more difficult for us to establish our rights, seems to us utterly unfair and unjustifiable. We cannot prevent the Province from persisting in this attempt, but we can and do respectfully declare that we intend to persist in making our claim against the Province of British Columbia for the following among other reasons:

  1. We are advised that at the time of Confederation all lands embraced within our territory became the property of the province subject to any interest other than that of the province therein.
  2. We have for a long time known that in 1875 the Department of Justice of Canada reported that the Indian Tribes of British Columbia are entitled to an interest in the lands of the province.
  3. Notwithstanding the report then made and the position in accordance with that report consistently taken by every representative of Canada from the time of Lord Dufferin’s speeches until the spring of the present year, and in defiance of our frequent protests, the Province has sold a large proportion of the best lands of our territory and has by means of such wrongful sales received a large amount of money.
  4. While we claim the right to be compensated for those portions of our territory which we may agree to surrender, we claim as even more important the right to reserve other portions permanently for our own use and benefit, and beyond doubt the portions which we would desire so to reserve would include much of the land which has been sold by the Province.

We are not opposed to the coming of the white people into our territory provided this be carried out justly and in accordance with the British principles embodied in the Royal Proclamation. If, therefore, as we expect, the aboriginal rights which we claim should be established by the decision of His Majesty’s Privy Council, we would be prepared to take a moderate and reasonable position. In that event, while claiming the right to decide for ourselves the terms upon which we would deal with our territory, we would be willing that all matters outstanding between the Province and ourselves should be finally adjusted by some equitable method to be agreed upon which should include representation of the Indian Tribes upon any Commission which then might be appointed.

The above statement was unanimously adopted at a meeting of the Nishga Nation or Tribe of Indians held at Kincolith on the 22nd day of January, 1913, and it was resolved that a copy of same be placed in the hands of each of the following:—The Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Indian Affairs, the Minister of Justice, Mr. J. M. Clark, K.C., Counsel for the Indian Rights Association of British Columbia, and the Chair-man of the ” Friends of the Indians of British Columbia.”

  1. J. LINCOLN, Chairman of Meeting.

 

Living Treaties, Lasting Arrangements

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Report of the Task Force to Review Comprehensive Claims Policy, 1985

This report is a timepiece – exposing a brief window of candor on the part of Canada’s political engineers. It is an analysis of the federal approach to minimizing Indigenous scope for land title restitution – after the Supreme Court failed to unanimously agree that Aboriginal rights no longer existed, after Calder in 1973, Canada wrote its Comprehensive Claims Policy. The report includes corresponding insight and recommendation.

The report is attached here in 7 parts via the link above.

It came in the midst of the First Ministers’ conferences on implementation of constitutional Aboriginal rights, 1982-1987.  Written after the 1982 Constitution Act, grappling with Section 35 where “Aboriginal and treaty rights are hereby affirmed” and before that First Ministers Conference series imploded in 1987 (accomplishing nothing except a formal return to “talk and log” politics), this report is unique in its unequivocal, explicit recognition of extensive Indigenous rights and the corresponding Canadian obligations. The Task Force received submissions from 60 Indigenous nations and organizations during its work.

Note that this volume is now all but inaccessible. Also note this report’s extensive and useful bibliography.

Xwe-Nal-Mewx Declaration, 1988

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Also called, Coast Salish Declaration

Begins:

“We know the Creator put us here. We know our Creator gave us laws that govern all our relationships to live in harmony with nature and mankind; defined our rights and responsibilities.

“We have the right to govern ourselves and the right to self-determination. Our rights and responsibilities cannot be altered or taken away by any other nation.

“We have our spiritual beliefs, our languages, our culture, and a place on Mother Earth which provides us with all our needs.

“We have maintained our freedom since time immemorial. …We declare and affirm to the people that… the Xwe-Nal-Mewx have held and till hold title to all lands, waters and resources within our traditional territories. ….”

Full text: xwe-nal-mewx-declaration-coast-salish

Return of the Indian Agent?

Grand Chief Ed John recommends MCFD in every reserve community

In September of 2015, Grand Chief Ed John was hired by the province of British Columbia “to provide advice on how to address the inordinate number of Indigenous children in care of government.” For clarification, the BC government asked for advice from the Chair of the First Nations Summit on how to stop itself from forcibly removing the children of Indigenous nations.

On November 21, 2016, John’s report was released: “Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – From Root Causes to Root Solutions.” Unfortunately, it does not feature the most obvious solution to the problem – the solution proposed over and over by Indigenous leaders; the solution which families and communities have fought for, tooth and nail: the removal of state child-apprehension programs from interference among peoples with whom Canada has no treaty, and over whom Canada has no jurisdiction.

Instead, the report calls firstly for increased funding to the provincial Ministry of Child and Family Services, in order to support the presence of more government-accredited social workers in a Ministry office on every reserve. And lastly, for Canada-wide legislation dictating the terms by which Indigenous Peoples may participate in child welfare.

There is a vast disconnect between the stories reported and the recommendations ensuing. The stories: anger, heartbreak, loss and irreparable harm caused by all-powerful MCFD agents demanding nuclear-family scenarios from extended-family cultures.

The recommendations: nothing less than re-institution of the Indian Agent. The highest recommended level of community engagement is a “nation-to-nation” protocol between the Indigenous party and the MCFD regional office (which is not a nation). After that, in the long term, an Indigenous community can take steps to replace the on-reserve agent with a bureaucrat of their own making, following federal prescriptions for the fulfillment of Ministry requirements.

There are several further, eerie shades to this report. One appears in the opening paragraphs, where the late Tl’azt’en warrior Chief, Harry Pierre, is quoted: “In our time, the helpers would come to help the mother and father…they would remind the parents of their responsibility.” Ed John does not refer in his report to any character resembling a “helper,” such as is described by Pierre, except the newly mandated on-reserve social worker.

John avoids directly identifying the “root causes” of BC’s excessive child-removal program, except to hint that they were planted in Indigenous communities by the government. And now –however unexpectedly – he lays out an agenda whereby those causes are to be corrected by planting alongside them the government itself. Thus providing “root solutions.”

No part of these recommendations pursues Indigenous autonomy in their continuing, unsurrendered jurisdiction over these matters. Although UN declarations are referenced, the report’s recommendations ignore international recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination, control of their lands and resources and their own natural wealth, and control of their own social, economic and cultural business. The report also ignores a bloody, sweaty, tearful and epic campaign by Indigenous nations to bring their children home.

 

Jurisdiction over Indigenous children

A handful of news articles have appeared on the release of this report, all relying entirely on phrases provided by the government and Ed John’s public remarks. The journalists do not include the hard facts of his main recommendations, but parrot the buzzword jargon which John provided in his summary: “the essence of his 85 recommendations is a call for a jurisdictional transfer of aboriginal child welfare from governments, federal and provincial, to indigenous communities themselves,” reported Vaughn Palmer in The Vancouver Sun.

There arises a problem with the definition of “jurisdiction,” which the Grand Chief does not condescend to clarify. Indigenous Peoples expect that “jurisdiction” means their inherent and internationally recognized right of self-determination – their full International Bill of Rights and the wealth of their natural resources that comes with. In this Special Advisor’s report, the word “jurisdiction” is apparently used to refer to “powers delegated to a First Nation by the federal government after agreements releasing and indemnifying the governments and anyone else for past harms, and after ratification of self-government agreements modifying the Aboriginal right to be the rights included in this Agreement, as funded by periodic arrangements with the provincial and federal governments.”

Grand Chief Ed John has had 25 years of experience in promoting these extinguishment agreements, in his role as Chair of the First Nations Summit. The Summit is the regulatory approval and promotion mechanism for First Nations to negotiate Final Agreements under the terms of the BC Treaty Commission. Recently the government has exchanged the word “extinguished” for the word “modified” to describe the transformation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights into “the rights specified in the Agreement.”

He reports on his meeting with the Nisga’a, the first to ratify a Final Agreement in BC, where there have been “no removals of Nisga’a children in the last six years,” and all “because of the existing relationship between Nisga’a and MCFD.” Presumably this is because of their Final Agreement, under the terms of which “workers in Nisga’a communities are hired as auxiliary employees with MCFD.”

This is an example of the highest expression of “jurisdiction” possible under Ed John’s recommendations.

This is a very unimpressive example because it is not entirely true. According to a young Nisga’a woman living in Vancouver, she and her new family have been harassed by MCFD since she was six months pregnant. The Ministry has exacted dreadful invasions of her life, all on pain of losing her infant child if she does not comply. When questioned about assistance available to her as a Nisga’a citizen, who one would expect to have benefit of this “all possible because of the existing relationship between Nisga’a and MCFD,” she explained that this was not considered a good or even viable option by other young Nisga’a families she had asked. This particular young woman is mature, extremely intelligent, capable, and focused on her son – but she made the mistake of reporting to an Aboriginal liaison worker that she had had a fight with her boyfriend.

“Jurisdiction” here means perhaps even less.

 

Government Approved

The BC government press release announcing the report also included the news that “Of the recommendations directed at MCFD, work on 40 of them is either being wrapped into the ministry’s multi-year operations plan or is currently underway.” It seems that the report has outlined some extremely achievable goals for the provincial government.

Or is that a bad translation? The report was also described by the province as a key to “improve outcomes for Indigenous children and youth by changing focus from intervention and separation to strengthening families.” However, there are no recommendations pertaining to this at all – except possibly #17, a reminder list of procedural obligations for BC judges, including that they should “make every possible effort to keep siblings together in their orders.” And possibly #37? Another $4 million to INAC and MCFD in “family preservation funding”?

The 220 page report is largely made up of highlighted quotes from BC’s Child Family and Community Services Act, and is perhaps most useful as a guide to the Act itself. Most of the recommendations concern implementing the Act at deeper and deeper levels within Indigenous communities. Focusing heavily on government handouts about its finer instruments of inducting Indigenous youth into state “care”, the report runs the gamut of ‘Delegated Aboriginal Agencies’ and ‘Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards and Indicators’ and ‘Wrapping our Ways Around Them’ – a guidebook “based on the understanding that Aboriginal peoples need to understand how to work within the current systems.”

And here, after summarizing all these, the first Recommendation appears:

#1: MCFD and INAC invest in the development and delivery of child and family services directly within First Nations communities in BC, through the following specific actions:

  • MCFD and INAC commit to invest an additional $8 million annually to increase the number of social workers, support workers, and others serving First Nations communities in BC by at least 92 FTEs over the next two years;
  • MCFD take immediate action to ensure that the additional front-line staff identified above are placed directly within First Nations communities in BC;
  • MCFD and INAC work together to ensure that a child and family liaison and advocate  is funded for each First Nation community  as a support service to parents, families, leaders, and members who require support within the community or to navigate the child  welfare system; and
  • MCFD, with the objective of maximizing its child safety recruitment, review the entry-level qualifications for front-line workers to consider educational and experiential requirements for child safety positions.

Of all the grandmothers’ statements and community advocates’ outlines of internal remedy, those are not the characters elevated in the Grand Chief’s recommendations.

It is not until Recommendations 5 and 6 that First Nations – or any of them – are mentioned in the proposed new regime: their leaders should meet regularly with regional MCFD officers, and receive lists of the names of their children who are in state care.

A question arises concerning the discrepancy between the funding/hiring/state infrastructure recommendations, and contrary statements in the body of the report like this:

 As this report will illustrate, I do not believe it is sufficient to simply refine the            existing child welfare structure and authority base with an internally accountable quality assurance framework premised on greater centralization and improved lines of communication. Nor do I believe it will suffice to simply deploy more university-educated social workers, who – though often well intentioned – are without the knowledge and understanding of the Indigenous peoples with whom they work. A bigger and brighter version of the existing children welfare system will not address the concerns or meet the expectations of those Indigenous peoples with whom I met over the course of my engagements as Special Advisor.

And the question is this: did the same person who wrote that statement also write the recommendations? Because the recommendations are all about, are only about, expanding the existing structure; deploying more social workers; and delegating a “refined” version of the existing framework to Indigenous administration.

 

The Role of Special Advisor

John’s unique commission as “Special Advisor” started two months before his colleague, Bob Plecas, released his commissioned report on the same subject of child welfare. That report is unique in that it attached a dollar figure to the MCFD’s annual operating budget in BC: $2 billion. However, because of a self-disclosed business approach to the matter, when the Plecas Report came out in December, 2015, Indigenous leaders described is as “callous” and “ignorant”, as well as publicly urging John to remove himself from the situation and distance himself from the report. He did neither.

At least one Indigenous organization objected to this Special Advisor role early in the process. The Chilliwack Progress reported: “A resolution approved by Sto:lo Tribal Council is calling for Grand Chief Edward John to step down from his MCFD advisor role… The issues they raise about Chief John have to do with the irreconcilable contradiction between his role as MCFD advisor, as well as a B.C. Leadership Council and First Nations Summit Task Group member: “The Minister and Deputy Minister have stated in writing and in public that they are not required to consult First Nations leaders and organizations such as the First Nations Health Council because they hired Grand Chief Edward John.””

Others have commented in social media outlets since the release of the report. “Indigenous child welfare requires traditional ways, not white government interference!” exclaimed Hereditary Chief Kakila of Tenas Lake, St’at’imc. “The First Nations Summit is about money, not about solutions for community needs. In order to protect the child you must first protect the parents! You must build a healthy community that is the family structure! A child needs love, kindness and nurture – not millions of dollars for social workers!”

The First Nations Summit, the center of John’s career, is the state-constituted body which represents First Nations in BC treaty negotiations. This is not widely regarded as authentic representation of Indigenous peoples, although the BC government has always allowed the lines to blur: “Ed John has no mandate to represent anything. Another Christy Clark scam.” – Morris Amos, Haisla.

As to the legal reality of Indigenous Peoples’ jurisdiction, some traditional leaders are grim: “Unceded lands but tightly in the grip of these Uncle Tomahawks and Christy Clark. And they ignore us hereditary chiefs. There’s no way to get at them. It would take an organizing effort of epic proportions to combat this government-funded machine with so many entrenched “Grand Chiefs” and all those lofty titles they give themselves.” – Ron George, Hereditary leader from the Deskayway House of Wet’suwet’en:

 

A Note on the Cipher

Entrenched dominance jargon throws shade on the few bright Indigenous-led initiatives that are barely referenced in the Grand Chief’s report. In one of the only references to authentic Indigenous aspirations, John couches the internationally recognized Indigenous Peoples’ right of self-determination within Canadian-defined “self-government.” He literally presents the notion of “a First Nation to move toward fully exercising its right of self-determination as an aspect of self-government.”

In order to crack this code language, one must appreciate that whatever the government of Canada recognizes as an Aboriginal right, in this case “self-government” (now defined by the “First Nations Governance Act”), is therefore something that can only be safely exercised in a manner in which Canada approves and recognizes and legislates it. It is simply an act of deception to include the words “self-determination” in a context which precludes the meaning of that right.

In order to understand Grand Chief John’s report, one must have several elite keys to decipher the code. For example, a deconstruction of this paragraph:

“The report, however, also recognizes and speaks to the period of transition currently underway as Indigenous peoples and communities transition away from governance under the Indian Act, and work to rebuild our governance capacity, core governance institutions, and assert our jurisdiction based on the needs and priorities determined by our own communities. In recognition of this important period of transition, and motivated by the desire that no child, parent, family, or community be left behind, the report also recommends specific shorter-term actions that should be taken to improve legislative and administrative measures relating to the welfare of Indigenous children, families, and communities.”

 

Key:

“period of transition” = implementation of former Prime Minister Harper’s Bill C-45 omnibus legislation which sparked the Idle No More movement in reaction to its sweeping codification of limited and delegated Aboriginal rights, such as in the cutting of Constitutional Non-Derogation clauses; the First Nations Financial Transparency Act; First Nations Governance Act; First Nations Land Management Act; First Nations Education Act; etc.   * also implementation of the federal government’s “Secret” (otherwise unnamed) document on adapting federal policy to “reconciliation” following the Supreme Court rulings on Haida  and Taku in 2004.

“away from governance under the Indian Act” = towards Final Agreements in the BC treaty process and under the federal Comprehensive Claims Policy (extinguishment agreements), and effectively into corporate entities with municipal status under provincial legislations

“rebuild our governance capacity” = turn Indian Act Bands into corporate models under the First Nations Governance Act, exercising “Aboriginal rights” as allowed and delegated by Canada

“our jurisdiction” = meaning, post-transition delegated powers

“specific shorter-term actions” = also known as “Interim Measures” in the BC treaty process, referring to unilateral administrative actions, deals and programs by the state

“legislative and administrative measures” = actions taken by the state

“welfare of Indigenous children, families, and communities” = no clear meaning. When this phrase follows a recipe for assimilation into Canadian minority status such as in the paragraph above, “welfare” probably literally means measurable statistics and indicators such as educational achievement, life expectancy and economic status comparable to other Canadians, measured according to Canadian values rather than Indigenous values (which would also include identity, language, autonomy, independence, ecological sustainability, cultural cohesion)

 

The report is a collection of headlines unsupported by corroborating details. This way, a reporter can reference these headlines as if they are representative of the content of his report. Except the black and white recommendations, which do not support the headlines.

This is a writing genre that Ed John has perfected over many years of his career in the Indian Industry. John has dispersed empty rhetoric, while never taking any action whatsoever, as the Chair of the First Nations Summit; as BC Minister for Children and Families; as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – in which capacity he often and profoundly misrepresented events in the state of Canada, most notably in his characterization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a product of Indigenous decision.

The trouble with having such a career is that this tradesman actually depends on continuing, even enriching the Indian Industry. Or, as a comparable character, a junior minister in the BC cabinet, once put it: “It’s not about making it work – it’s about keeping it working.”

 

 

For relevant and meaningful reports on Indigenous mobilization to re-take control of their children and families, please see a developing archive on the subject of Canada’s forcibly removing Indigenous children from their homes and families: State of Indigenous Child Removal ihraamorg.wordpress.com

 

A timeline to put the Grand Chief’s recommendations in historical context:

  • In 1920 the Canadian legacy began, with enforcing attendance of all Indian children in Indian Residential Schools. This was, as we know, “to kill the Indian in the child” and make sure there would be “no more Indian problem.”
  • Into the 1960s, enforced attendance was relaxed and some children did not go to IRS.
  • In the 1960s and 70s, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were kidnapped from public places, from maternity wards, and from homes by state officials mandated to find neglect and remove children to non-native homes, severed from all knowledge of their true identity.
  • From the 1970s to present, the state has imposed impossible criteria on Indigenous families to keep their children, with no accountability, apparently, to anyone, and no real recourse for families. The only “deliverable” appears to be the children themselves: out of their communities and into foreign homes.
  • In 2016, Ed John recommends that the Ministry responsible for half a century of forcible removal of children be located by satellite offices directly inside Indigenous communities, thus rooting government control of family life in the heart of the community. With the option for Indigenous Peoples to eventually run that particular machine themselves, by agreement, and be accountable to Canadian taxpayers.

“Reconciliation” arose as Federal Policy after Haida and Taku legal victories

2004

This federal policy draft, attached here, marks a major shift in Canada. The new strategy to “quiet” Indigenous titles and rights is by mutual agreement: “in the spirit of reconciliation.”

secret-fed-policy-doc-september-10-2004-re-haida-and-taku

Finally realizing the Supreme Court of Canada’s repeated emphasis on “reconciliation”, which can be negotiated, the federal government revised its policies away from denial and towards vague statements of recognition. Along a program of “the concept of reconciliation,” Canada has been advancing Final Agreements and self-government agreements with renewed urgency, since the Haida people’s success in gaining the court’s recognition of their land rights.

Streams of government agreements with Indigenous Peoples, including agreements about child welfare, education, compensation for forestry operations, health care, land management, governance, and financial obligations have now, in specific instances, conceded key areas of Indigenous jurisdiction to Canada. Indigenous ratification of agreements with Canada, or even provinces or territories, becomes a reciprocal recognition. Whereas most peoples and nations never gave their countries away, nor struck a bargain with Canada for shared ownership, in the absence of constructive arrangements these agreements specifically require an Indigenous party to recognize Canadian interests. Once they are signed, and funding programs have shipped, these agreements are not constitutionally protected and “reconciliation” has no legal character.

Since 2004 we have seen “reconciliation” enter the scene to draw attention away from unilateral assertions of Indigenous rights on the ground, and away from litigation to prove claims. Instead: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where no more charges were to be laid in the trial of the residential schools; the flopped Recognition and Reconciliation Act in British Columbia, where a runaway band of elected Chiefs purported to provide recognition of Crown interests in unsurrendered territories; even “reconciliation in child welfare” – a numbing phrase designed to force Indigenous communities to accept existing Ministry interference as the baseline for ‘moving forward’; and so on.

And now we know that many Indigenous leaders have been complicit in those programs while they were completely aware that this is Canada’s strategy to side-step the Indigenous right. It was the Union of BC Indian Chiefs that copied and distributed this secret draft policy document in 2004. Attached above, it has been scanned and transcribed with OCR to recreate the original document. The draft spells out the fact that Canada is in a perilous legal and financial place, with investment evaporating every time Indigenous Peoples win in court – and that future wins are stacked up like an avalanche waiting to happen – and a big diversion is needed.

“Reconciliation” is now entering every area of “Aboriginal rights” negotiations – rights which can be exercised as Aboriginal Canadians – but it is a function of assimilating Indigenous nations into Canada. No one is really prepared to stand up and say “we don’t want reconciliation,” for obvious reasons.

But in this situation, Canada is abusing the concept to shame Indigenous leaders and representatives into subjugating themselves to Canada. Their nations never joined Canada – they were invaded and looted by Canada. And now the self-proclaimed country, having thrown its borders up around all these nations, wants to marry the one it robbed so there can be no more talk about separate possessions and interests and the little matter of injury.

“Reconciliation” is the New Deal. Canada is trying to buy land – and buy the people who own the land – with the promise that it will share the wealth once it has the deed.

Declaration of the Tahltan Tribe, 1910 

We, the undersigned members of the Tahltan tribe, speaking for ourselves, and our entire tribe, hereby make known to all whom it may concern, that we have heard of the Indian Rights movement among the Indian tribes of the Coast, and of the southern interior of B.C.. Also we have read the Declaration made by the chiefs of the southern interior tribes at Spences Bridge on the 16th July last, and we hereby declare our complete agreement with the demands of same, and with the position taken by the said chiefs, and their people on all the questions stated in the said Declaration, and we furthermore make known that it is our desire and intention to join with them in the fight for our mutual rights, and that we will assist in the furtherance of this object in every way we can, until such time as all these matters of moment to us are finally settled. We further declare as follows:—

Firstly—We claim the sovereign right to all the country of our tribe—this country of ours which we have held intact from the encroachments of other tribes, from time immemorial, at the cost of our own blood. We have done this because our lives depended on our country. We have never treated with them, nor given them any such title. (We have only very lately learned the B.C. government makes this claim, and that it has for long considered as its property all the territories of the Indian tribes in B.C.)

Secondly--We desire that a part of our country, consisting of one or more large areas (to be erected by us),be retained by us for our own use, said lands and all thereon to be acknowledged by the government as our absolute property. The rest of our tribal land we are willing to relinquish to the B.C. government for adequate compensation.

Thirdly—We wish it known that a small portion of our lands at the mouth of the Tahltan river, was set apart a few years ago by Mr. Vowell as an Indian reservation. These few acres are the only reservation made for our tribe. We may state we never applied for the reservation of this piece of land, and we had no knowledge why the government set it apart for us, nor do we know exactly yet.

Fourthly–-We desire that all questions regarding our lands, hunting, fishing, etc., and every matter concerning our welfare, be settled by treaty between us and the Dominion and B.C. governments.

Fifthly—We are of the opinion it will be better for ourselves, also better for the governments and all concerned, if these treaties are made with us at a very early date, so all friction, and misunderstanding between us and the whites may be avoided, for we hear lately much talk of white settlement in the region, and the building of railways, etc., in the near future.

 

Signed at Telegraph Creek, B.C., this eighteenth day of October, nineteen hundred and ten, by

Nanok, Chief of the Tahltans

Nastulta, alias Little Jackson

George Assadza, Kenetl, alias Big Jackson

and eighty other members of the tribe