When it comes to Indigenous rights, it is part of Canada’s strategy to confuse its citizenry. Don’t be duped by the way Canada co-opts and re-defines terms.
The truth is Canada is not signing treaties nor is Canada’s newly proposed Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework at all rooted in reconciliation, nation-to-nation, or an equal sharing of lands and resources. Rather, Canada will continue to sign agreements that grossly and narrowly define Indigenous rights as Canada allows them to be. While Canada calls these agreements “modern treaties”, the reality is Canada continues to refuse to meet international standards regarding Indigenous rights, and thus continues to be a colonial and genocidal agent. Remember Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is unworkable. Indeed Minister Carolyn Bennett should be embarrassed about her role in this.
When Justin Trudeau came to power as prime minister, it was in large part reactionary to the loathe many people felt for Stephen Harper. Regardless, for other people, Trudeau’s lofty feminist platform and promises of reconciliation and a new nation-to-nation relationship that included the implementation of the UNDRIP was immediately recognized for the lies they were. This was apparent when Trudeau promoted Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Michael Wernick to the position of Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet. With this move Trudeau promoted the highest ranking civil servant to an even higher position.
To the wretchedness of many Indigenous people, it was in June 2016 when Trudeau divulged his thinking. He argued the federal government is the first order of government, the Provincial/Territorial governments the second, municipalities the third, whereas Indigenous government is the fourth and lowest order. Clearly, Trudeau’s version of nation-to-nation was meaningless.
In the House of Commons Trudeau stated his new Indigenous Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework would “include new legislation and policy that would make the recognition and implementation of rights the basis for all relations between Indigenous Peoples and the federal government moving forward.” He said this new legislation, now set to be tabled in the new year, will “recognize Indigenous governments, and ensure rigorous, full and meaningful implementation of treaties and other agreements.”
In line with lead colonial agent Trudeau, Bennett said following a co-development process with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) she plans to replace policies governing comprehensive claims and self-government. But keep in mind here that the AFN does not represent all Indigenous people in Canada. Rather, it is a body of First Nation chiefs and their membership.
Justifiably, many Indigenous leaders are not happy with this approach. Chief Judy Wilson has argued, it makes more sense to implement UNDRIP as the new framework, rather than what Bennett is pushing, adding UNDRIP is the right direction for Canada to take.
Indigenous policy advisor and leading Indigenous thinker Russell Diabo adds, the Trudeau government is developing and domesticating a Canadian definition of UNDRIP to further colonize Indigenous Peoples. He adds, the development of this framework has operated in secret, in a top-down process, and with particular organizations, chiefs, and participants. In taking this approach Canada has selected people who are willing to consent. Chiefs and people, for example, who are under the oppressors funding regimes. Diabo argues this framework is designed to terminate our existing sovereignty, self-determination, collective Aboriginal Title and Rights, and Treaty Rights as Indigenous Nations.
Thohahente Weaver, a First Nations band member of Kenhteke, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, and outspoken critic, agrees with Diabo arguing, we offered the new comers peace and friendship. We presented them with our Wampum Belts, a traditional governance structure that collectively codify a good and honourable relationship, yet Canada continues to impose our extermination. That is what this new framework is about: The end of Indigenous jurisdiction.
Diabo argues through the new framework, and through the fourth level of government, Indigenous rights will be domesticated and defined under federal jurisdiction. Canada will do this by financially coercing and co-opting Indian Act bands to become federally recognized as an Indigenous government. He adds it is important to know that this new framework only concerns Indian Act reserve lands, which consists of only 0.2% of our broader traditional territories. It is in this way that Diabo argues this new framework is an extension of the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy that called for converting Indian reserves into fee simple ownership and private property. No doubt Trudeau Jr is completing his daddy’s work first proposed in the White Paper.
Clearly Indigenous self-government means more than the administration of our own property on reserves. It must mean meeting international standards of Indigenous self-determination which means Canada must respect our rights to our own land and resources so Indigenous Nations can build our own structures of governance and law, and our own institutions such as child care agencies, schools, hospitals, laws, courts, and policing. After all the land and the gifts it provides are ours because we are the Indigenous people to these lands, not the settler people and their descendants.
In his book “Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy” Arthur Manual said Canada’s greatest betrayal of this century belongs to Justin Trudeau for the lies and manipulation that he campaigned on, that being that UNDRIP would be fully implemented once he was elected as prime minister. Adding Jody Wilson-Raybould is also a devastating disappointment to Indigenous people.
As an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley, a land and waterscape that due to processes of colonization I have never been afforded to live within, nothing speaks to me more about Trudeau’s lies and manipulation than the reality that Canada continues to stand still on their offer of 1.3% of our territory and a one-time buy-out of $300 million in the Algonquin of Ontario land claim. Trudeau’s Liberal government has not moved on this offer. It is through offers such as this and through the new Rights Recognition Framework that Canada’s genocide will continue. Nothing has changed, just more co-optation of the terms relied on.
Canada’s Parliament squats on Algonquin land!
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Algonquin land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through, and see more of her work, at www.lynngehl.com.