Success, sacrifice, and Indigenous education
We’re talking about restoring our indigenous languages, and this is going to be a great quick conversation, come check it out! Just click on the link to join the spreecast.
Tansi - Kuei - Bozhoo-Wachiya-Kwe Kwe, Shé:kon - Ahni
join Leanne Simpson Christi Belcourt, Clifton Nicholas, Khelsilem Rivers,Chelsea Vowel and others to discuss how to restore our languages in our every day lives. Sunday March 31 for National Aboriginal Language Day
This is going down in about 15 minutes, hope you join us!
A day-long event to learn about Anishnawbeg & Haudenosaunee Nationhood, Indigenous Women’s Leadership, Canada’s First Nations Termination Plan, Defenders of the Land, and Building a New Relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples
I will be participating via Skype at around 8:00pm ET. Tune in now, some amazing talks going on, I’m beading and have it on in the background.
Snuck into the budget is a clause requiring anyone on reserve who gets social assistance, to enter into job training. More funds are earmarked to help First Nations enforce this than there are to actually create the training programs.
$155 million towards FN infrastructure over 10 years. So about $25,000 per First Nation. Enjoy your new…doorknobs?
Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act is being rammed through the Senate in order to bring it into force before March 31st so it will apply to all the Contribution Agreements, many of which lack non-derogation clauses and require First Nations to abide by various pieces of legislation created without consultation.
While taken piece by piece, the various attacks on indigenous peoples by the Harper government seem minor…taken as a whole, and we are facing a situation worse than when Trudeau introduced his White Paper in 1969.
We are under attack. We have been branded as either human resources to exploit, or as humans in the way of resource exploitation. We do not exist as nations or as peoples in the eyes of this government.
These are seriously grim times, and we are going to need serious resolve to face what sometimes feels like overwhelming obstacles.
I hope you’ve rested up, because Idle No More was just the prologue. If we don’t fight now, in this generation, we will have nothing left for our children, much less our grandchildren.
This won’t be a huge post, for once. The norovirus is wreaking havoc on my family and I’m the nurse, hoping I’m not felled in action.
What I want to briefly talk about today are non-derogation clauses, and why they are important.
A non-derogation clause in Aboriginal law generally reads like this:
Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
This sort of thing allows you to make agreements with various levels of government (usually, but not always federal) that do not somehow, trickily, extinguish any of your rights, whether you have proven those rights or not. In an earlier and longer article, I discussed how these non-derogation clauses are being undermined by clauses intent on ‘quieting titles’. In other words, clauses which do not extinguish aboriginal rights, but which make you contractually obligated not to exercise them. Although this is a huge distinction legally, there is essentially no difference between these approaches on the ground.
As Wilton Littlechild and Constance Backhouse reported recently, a worrisome trend has arisen:
…in laws drafted since 1995, the Department of Justice has experimented with replacing the clear non-derogation language with many weaker variations, which have trended towards a blurring of, and eventual overturning of Parliament’s previously clear presumptive intention not to diminish aboriginal and treaty rights in new legislative projects.
No longer content with watering down non-derogation clauses, the federal government is now experimenting with getting rid of them completely. Two major examples of this have come up recently, and need some serious and immediate attention.
Desperate for safe water? Here have a non-derogation derogation clause.
With the wording of a proposed new law, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, the campaign to erode the constitutional and legal status of aboriginal and treaty rights has come full circle.
For the first time, a new law would include an active “derogation” provision; that is, the proposed law explicitly states that aboriginal and treaty rights deemed to be in conflict with the law’s stated objective will not be respected. And for the first time, a new law would contradict promises made to aboriginal peoples in treaties as to the interpretive primacy of those treaties.
Many aboriginal peoples are desperate for improved water supply after decades of federal underfunding. In a cruel feature of the new law, eligibility for future federal funding support for improved water services would be tied to willingness to live under the new derogation regime created by the proposed law.
The clause referred to is section 3:
3. For greater certainty, nothing in this Act or the regulations is to be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, except to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands.
At first glance, this clause looks like your standard mumbo jumbo non-derogation “don’t worry your rights are protected” clause, but that last bit makes a huge difference. It is typical legal double speak. “Your rights are protected… unless we need to violate them to carry out this legislation that we did not create with adequate consultation with you and further, we will not consult with you as we carry out these legislative duties.”
This issue has been raised again and again, very vociferously by many different groups and nothing has changed. If you think I may be exaggerating, look again at the article I provided, scroll down, and peep the various organisations and individuals who have signed on in support of its conclusions. This is a serious threat to aboriginal rights and marks a very aggressive approach to legislating on indigenous issues.
Desperate for your annual funding? Sign this and don’t read too closely.
Now what is really getting my knickers in a twist right now, are the hundreds of Contribution Agreements which have gone out this year to First Nations. Eagle eyes have noticed that this year’s round of CAs, which detail how the federal government will disperse monies for essential services to First Nations (for health, education, housing, infrastructure and so on), are not like last year’s. In Saskatchewan:
The [CA] appendix allegedly requires the bands to support federal omnibus legislation and proposed resource developments as a condition of accessing their funding. Some bands have already signed the funding agreements out of necessity, noting that they did so under duress, and at least two others allegedly did not. “As of April 1, 2013,” one source said, “they will have no funds because they did not sign the agreement.”
In Burnt Church, they noticed that there was no non-derogation clause in the Contribution Agreement at all.
Essentially this is a two-pronged approach. Taking out the non-derogation clauses opens up these agreements to side-effects on aboriginal rights that are impossible to fully predict and are extremely worrisome. And let’s be frank. Why take them out? If they have been there for years, why now decide that they aren’t needed? Littlechild and Backhouse laid out the context pretty succinctly. This is a deliberate shift.
In addition, the kinds of legislation that these agreements are requiring First Nations to abide by seem to be tailored to specific regions, as not all of them are reported as having the same clauses. One west-coast band has signed an agreement which requires that First Nation to accept the contentious First Nations Financial Transparency Act, while other agreements seem to focus on other policies or pieces of legislation.
Do you know what is in your First Nation’s CA this year?
Strong arm tactics, with serious potential consequences
Some First Nations are trying to hold firm and refuse to sign their CAs for the year, in the hopes that the agreements will be changed back to what used to be the norm. Right now, it does not seem that the federal government is willing to budge on this.
It is very, very important that people become aware of this issue, now. If First Nations are not able to flow funds as of April 1st because they refuse the imposition of these snuck-in clauses and lack of non-derogation clauses, the results are going to be scary. This is nothing short of economic blackmail whose effects are going to be felt by some of the poorest people in Canada, in mere weeks.
I am hoping you will share what you know of the Contribution Agreements in your First Nation, either here or on social media. This story has come up a few times, but I really feel that a sharp focus is necessary now.
This live spreecast is going on right now, and has a line up of some absolutely amazing speakers still to go, including Chief Theresa Spence, and Wab Kinew among others. Get in there!
We don’t need more Ward Churchills. If there is a rumour in your family that you may have some native blood, that’s cool, that’s fine, definitely learning more about your family is a great thing. But there are people who use that rumour to claim they are a member of an actual indigenous nation, and that’s where things get problematic.
This is particularly a problem when people…and let’s be honest, we know people are doing this…when people trawl for information about the nation they are rumoured to have long ago ties to, and then piece that information together to form a persona. We’ve seen people go from ‘I heard this rumour’ to full on ‘I grew up on the rez!’ in the space of months. Months. Like no one saw it happen.
I have to say that I was impressed when one person claiming membership in an indigenous nation finally admitted that there was no factual basis for this claim. This person went back to identifying as an ally. There is no shame in being an ally.
So please just stop. Go ahead and learn about us. Go ahead and ally with us. Go ahead and meet Elders and let them teach you if they choose, and cherish those teachings, all of that is really okay. But don’t lie.
Just don’t fucking lie.
To me, the most amazing thing that came out of our Women’s Townhall was what Gabrielle Fayant brought from a youth conference she attended. I think we NEED to follow up on this:
- The goal is to educate others in a coordinated effort, all of it to be inclusive and accessible.
A proposal was put forth to do 12 weeks of nation-wide Aboriginal education class for the public, with one Aboriginal theme/topic per week. All Idle No More activities for that week would focus on this theme/topic. For example, week 7 would be Residential Schools.
Activities could include: book club meetings; peaceful rallies; “send a link to a friend”; writing to MPs; blogging; Facebook status updates; round dances; articles written for magazines; radio station interviews; classroom presentations; teach-ins; art exhibitions; pamphlets; ‘education circles’ (perhaps more interactive than teach-ins have been); helping mobs (where people are slowed down but then provided with lots of information and sometimes coffee/tea and bannock); YouTube videos; and info tables set up like an embassy; street teams to poster walls and so on “to name a few”!
Time to bring this Idle No More simmer back up to a boil!