Resource Revenue Sharing A Constitutional Obligation

by mmnationtalk on January 17, 20132063 Views

For Immediate Release: January 16, 2013

(Saskatoon, SK) The Chief and Executive of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations reacted in surprise to the Premier of Saskatchewan’s public comments reported in the media earlier today.

“As I stated to the Premier when we met in November, the FSIN prefers to engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue. The Premier agreed, at the time, that negotiating through the media is not productive. It’s unfortunate that he’s brought this dialogue into the public at this time. The Premier said he believes he has constitutional certainty regarding resource revenue-sharing, but we know that we have constitutional certainty,” stated Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN).

“When we talk about our rights, there’s actually a solid legal basis for our position. All we need to do is look to the United Nations and Canada’s Constitution,” added Chief Bellegarde. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which the UN General Assembly endorsed in 2007 and which Canada endorsed in 2010 sets the minimum standard and framework for indigenous rights around the world.

Article 8 UN Declaration states:
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources …

Article 28 UN Declaration states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used…

There is also a constitutional basis for our position: Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Indigenous Nations want Canada to respect its own laws and follow its own Constitution. In February 2012, the Government of Canada conceded at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the UN Declaration can be used to interpret Canadian law and the Constitution including Section 35.

Chief Bellegarde went on to say, “Sharing is fundamental to the numbered treaties, to lands and resources, to revenue-sharing and beyond. We did not cede or surrender all of our lands and resources: we agreed to share to our mutual benefit. Sharing also entails our involvement in any decision-making that affects our territories and our people. Sharing should not result in detrimental effects to our lands, cultures and health but that’s been the case thus far, and that has to stop.”

This is why Indigenous Nations, as signatories to the Treaties, must be at the table for all discussions regarding Canada’s natural resources. What’s at issue here is that today’s strategies remain inconsistent with today’s human rights standards. With the adoption of new standards in Section 35 and the UN Declaration, new strategies are needed by governments in their relations with First Nations. This requires our full involvement.

“The Province of Saskatchewan’s unilateral approach and exclusion of Indigenous Nations flies in the face of the human rights standards for indigenous peoples that Canada has adopted and which the Province is bound to uphold. Extinguishment of rights, marginalization and exclusion are the ways of the past, as are the ways of the colonial era. Respectful and thoughtful dialogue is what’s needed with the Government of Canada and the Province of Saskatchewan. As always, I remain committed to processes that bring about effective solutions to these long-outstanding issues. I hope we can return to a more productive dialogue soon. Saskatchewan’s resource-rich economy is booming right now and it will be even better when First Nations peoples are fully involved in resource development,” concluded Chief Bellegarde.

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