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Monday, December 31, 2012 

Harper government bills that enraged First Nations and sparked Idle No More

"The federal government continued to strengthen our relationship with First Nations over the last year."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
2012 Year End Statement

One of the first questions that people ask about the Idle No More movement is what the movement is all about. While the historical injustices experienced by First Nations are too many to list, activists say the current government is pushing through a range of new bills that violate treaty rights.
"Never in history has there been so many bills regarding and impacting First Nations been pushed through the House of Commons at one time," Idle No More Bill Breakdowna document released by activists, reads. Below is an excerpt adapted from the document, outlining the eight bills and amendments which have sparked protests across the country.
I. Land Surrenders
• This process prevents any debate or Grand Chiefs to present views of amendments
The Indian Act changes with zero consultation of communities
• Lowers threshold for the surrender of reserve lands
• It is no longer the majority of the band list that determines such a surrender of such reserve lands, but just a handful of people (e.g. five representatives in attendance, with three voting "yes")

II. Navigable Waters Act

• The federal government vacates jurisdiction over waters, parks, fisheries, etc. and the responsibility and duty to consult, honour treaty rights
• Allows Provinces to have more powerful expropriation powers
• The current federal government has expressed wishes to “unlock” First Nations' lands for the maximized benefit of Canadians

Bill S-2: Family Homes of Reserve Matrimonial Interests of Rights Act

• Does not recognize any First Nation by-laws that already set out matrimonial property laws
• For the first-time in history, legal rights can be given to non-Indians over holds on lands on-reserve
• Land, protected under treaties, exclusively for First Nations, can be given and transferred to non-First Nation people through this bill
First Nation Education Act
• Incorporates and imposes provincial laws into First Nation education on reserves
• The bill violates treaty right to education
• The federal government wishes to nationalize, control and legislate the treaty right to education
• Federal authorities with hand jurisdiction to the Province – not just stepping away from treaty obligations, but also funding obligations

Bill S-212: An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act
• Non-Derogation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights
Bill S-212: First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill and FNPOA
• The 1887 Dawes Act (United States) in Canadian form (privatization of reserve land: will take community-held reserve lands and divide up into individual parcels)
• This land can be sold to non-Indians and corporations, like any provincial lands, under provincial laws and registries, with no Aboriginal or Treaty rights associated anymore
• In the US, the biggest land grabs of indigenous land were not from treaties, but from the Dawes Act
• After the Dawes Act, more amendments were set to go and over half of the privatized lands were given to government, military, and corporations for resource extraction
• To put a pipeline (e.g. proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline) through a community, the community’s consent is no longer needed:  just the individual people whose property the pipeline would go beneath

Bill S-8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
• Will give the federal government the power to set up rules and regulations around water and sanitation and will be able to force Chief and Councils to do whatever federal authorities see as necessary on water
• They can demand that Chief and Councils fix water systems, but if there is no money to do so, it is taken from band operating funding formulas (that pays for housing, social assistance, etc.)
• If the federal government’s contractors mismanage a project, the federal government is not liable and they indemnify themselves from getting sued
• Transfers jurisdiction and pushes provincial laws on reserve lands
Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act

• Rob Clark’s Bill to Repeal the Indian Act altogether
• Gets rid of old provisions with zero consultation or with the consent of First Nations people
• Doesn’t acknowledge a band’s abilities to pass band by-laws
• Takes away the power of bands to pass by-laws to prohibit alcohol on reserves – by taking power away to create by-laws and govern
• As paternalistic and colonial as the Indian Act is, it currently protects a reserve from Provincial Laws, protects reserve Treaty Rights, prevents taking reserve land, prevents mining and development and pipelines

Bill C-27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act
• This bill will force First Nations to open up all the books, source revenue, and business revenue (for the public)
• Failure to make business information public can result in being taken to court and having funds to the community cut off
• Currently, if leaders speak up, they risk having budgets slashed
• The average salary for a First Nation leader is $36,845, while the salary of the average Canadian is $46,345
Vancouver Observer

"Bill C-45: Jobs and Growth Act (Omnibus Bill) I. Land Surrenders"

"It is no longer the majority of the band list that determines such a surrender of such reserve lands"

Jesus Christ, it's as if we're at war with them!

I do wonder, however, about what is wrong with mandating clean water and providing transparency to the finances of the band government.

Canada's Aboriginal peoples have a vibrant and engaged Assembly of First Nations. Harper and his Conservatives developed and passed these amendments without any consultation with the AFN.

Harper has stuck his arm into a hornets nest and there is going to be hell to pay ... he will be stung and badly by this.

It is the same old freakin' Conserative Party arrogance. They bully their way and get all cry babyish when there is push back. They get Ezra Levant and all the other Right wing spinners (Michael Coren, etc etc) to slam and attack First Nations and leadership.

Canada signed treaties with First Nations peoples recognizing them as nations. They surrendered Trillions of dollars worth of land for certain obligations from the government. And while, yes, many generations have passed since the treaties were signed, they are as valid today (recognized by the UN and other nations) as an agreement between nations.

Harper, his freakin' capitalist friends would destroy the entire nation to extract profit and leave future generations with a wasteland.

I applaud and salute the First Nations who are standing up to this righ wing, crap.

Happy New Year!

Well, most First Nations communities have no clean drinking water, and are not immune to corruption. There are those aspects that should be addressed.

But the other proposals are downright ridiculous and undemocratic. For example, if you're going to drill in someone's back yard, even dig a small hole, you got to first ask permission from the person owning the area you're going to dig in. Simplest rule imaginable.

But nonetheless, solidarity from Ontario! Keep up the fight! I too applaud and salute our indigenous brethren for their cause!

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