Current Affairs Politics

Canada And The First Nations – Progress To Equality?

Some interesting, and welcome, news from Canada on the shifting relationships between the Confederation and the First Nations, the Native American peoples of Canada. According to the Globe and Mail:

‘The hundreds of ongoing treaty discussions demonstrate the desire of first nations to significantly change the terms of their relationship with the federal government, says the head of Canada’s largest aboriginal organization.

It’s a relationship that Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), says has been framed by the Indian Act – a law he would see scrapped.’

The report goes on:

‘Mr. Atleo presented a brief to the AFN’s annual general assembly in Moncton on Tuesday that, among other things, called for the replacement of the Aboriginal Affairs department – the administrator of the act – with a body that would deal with first nations on a government-to-government basis.

The fact that “there are over 200 communities that are actively at negotiation tables has the effect of moving beyond the Indian Act as well as taking greater control into the communities,” he said. It also means “not relying on Indian Act bureaucracy which is, in fact, growing. The bureaucracy is growing while conditions get worse.”

Mr. Alteo said the call rising from first nations leaders who attended the first day of the three-day gathering is for the federal government to honour the treaty relationship, “and for the mechanisms that are required to move away from the bureaucracy controlling the lives of first nations to be brought into effect.”

The treaties that were written before Confederation, the international courts, and the courts in this country have affirmed that negotiations between a government and indigenous people should be on a nation-to-nation basis, said Mr. Atleo. “What we have yet to have is a government with the political will to honour and uphold the recognition of the treaties and of aboriginal title and rights,” he said.

The time has come for a complete transformation of the relationship between Ottawa and the first nations…’

Despite continued institutional discrimination and hostility it is wonderful to see how far the First Nations’ peoples have progressed over the last three decades in regaining something of their individual tribal autonomies or sovereignties and are slowly moving forward into new and fairer constitutional arrangements with and within Canada. If only the Native American peoples of their southern neighbour could say the same.

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