(Saskatoon, SK) The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) will forever continue to pursue its mandate of Treaty protection. The recently enacted omnibus legislation will have negative impacts on First Nations Inherent and Treaty Rights. The legislation also impacts other Treaty rights like justice, health, governance, economic development, education and lands and resources. The FSIN has offered political solutions to Canada on numerous occasions but to no avail.
“I reiterate the urgency of having our inherent and Treaty rights recognized and implemented. Our people have been abused in horrific ways during the “colonization” of our territories: a process that continues to this day. We have been marginalized and impoverished in our own homelands. We will take the steps necessary to end the ongoing abuses of colonialism. That could include mounting a constitutional challenge of Canada’s ongoing violation of our rights,” added Chief Bellegarde. “We were optimistic at the time of the First Nations-Crown gathering that things would change, and that we would move forward in true partnership. But with the unilateral imposition of legislation that will have significant negative impacts upon our rights, that hope is gone,” added Chief Bellegarde.
“The Government of Canada continues to dictate their own sets of laws and continues to act with total disregard to Supreme Court of Canada decisions and its constitutional and legal obligations to consult and, where necessary, accommodate,” added Chief Bellegarde. “The political process got us nowhere, but we’re not going to just sit back and wait for Canada to get moving. We will begin looking at what options are available to us. Canada has constitutional, international, and legal obligations to consult First Nations. The Canadian government often emphasizes Canada’s Constitution, but repeatedly fails to respect it and thereby violates the rule of law. This is unacceptable. First Nations cannot and will not allow this as a standard practice. We have a right to participate in decision-making and, where applicable, Canada requires First Nations’ consent.”
Together the two omnibus bills included over 850 pages. Lumping together so many different issues in so-called “budget” bills that negatively affect First Nations’ rights and interests was not only unjust, but the federal government has also violated the principle of democracy and undermined the integrity of Parliament.
The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that the “protection of Aboriginal and Treaty rights” is an underlying constitutional principle and value. The Court has also ruled that s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is a “national commitment”.
This year, three United Nation expert committees gave Canada’s performance on meeting rights commitments a failing grade. Amnesty International has said that Canada has “dramatically undermined and rapidly dismantled” support for public policy debate in which diverse views are aired.” It is common knowledge that Canada was one of the main hold outs from signing onto the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Since it finally did sign the declaration, Canada has been largely inactive in implementing its principles. Not only does the UN Declaration emphasize “free, prior and informed consent”, but the Supreme Court of Canada has also ruled that the consent of First Nations is required “where the negative impact to the First Nations is serious”. The Canadian government is wrong to ignore Canada’s highest court and the UN Declaration on the issue of “consent”.
Canada’s continued insistence to unilaterally impose its will has resulted in community-based action across the land by First Nations and Canadians alike. Many Canadians have also come out to oppose the omnibus bills because they understand the threat it poses to not only people, but also to the lands and waters on which we all rely.
First Nations have a right and responsibility to safeguard their human rights and the environment. International experts and laws emphasize that “human rights defenders” and “environment defenders” play an important role and their actions must not be devalued or criminalized. The FSIN will continue to support such efforts, and those of leaders like Chief Theresa Spence from the Attawapiskat First Nation, who is currently on a hunger strike. “Chief Spence is in the hearts and minds of First Nation people from across our territories,” added the Chief. “She is calling for an end to Canada’s unilateral and paternalistic approach to dealing with issues, and is calling for a meeting with the Crown to focus on implementing Treaty and Inherent rights.”
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
For more information: Mervin Brass, Executive Director of Communications Direct: 306.956.1026 Cellular: 306.220.7187 Email BlackBerry: email@example.com
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