INDIGENOUS NATIONS MAY FACE EXTENSIVE RIGHTS LOSSES
AS CANADA PURSUES LEGISLATIVE CHANGE
HARPER LEGISLATION
Canada is proceeding fast forward to alter the
situation of indigenous nations in that country by
a legislative agenda.  
Here are links to the
actual bills and their current status:


  •    Bill C-45: Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 [Omnibus
    Bill includes Indian Act amendments regarding
    voting on-reserve lands surrenders/designations
    Received Royal Assent and is now Law

    First Reading

First Reading

      First Reading

    Second reading and referred to committee
    (December 5, passed)



The Bills listed above are designed to
undermine the collective rights of First
Nations by focusing on individual rights. This
is the “modern legislative framework” the
Conservatives promised in 2006 but from the
indigenous perspective, it is a giant step.
Acts of delegation of
federal authority to
provinces seek to
remove the
nation-to-nation aspect
of federal obligations
under existing treaties,
as well as the linkages
of treaties to application
of the
Vienna
Convention on the Law
of Treaties.
This flouts the ruling of
the Supreme Court of
Canada, which asks, as a
criteria for introduction
of legislation which
impacts aboriginal
people in Canada, "Has
there been a reasonable
effort to inform and
consult with respect to
the implementation of
legislative measures?"
(
Nikal, 1996)
The legislative agenda as
unilaterally impose on
native peoples what will
ultimately result in
sweeping systemic
changes and a possible
threat to their cultural
survival, is also in direct
contravention of Canada's
Constitution Act, 1982
That the Canadian
government has now
decided the
Indian Act is
a discretionary piece of
legislation which it may
unilaterally dissolve or
meaningfully alter,
irrespective of the
obvious negative
impacts on the rights
and possibly even the
cultural survival of the
indigenous nations, is a
shocking development
that is proceeding apace
by sleight of hand and
law.
Human Rights Watch Report: Abusive Policing and
Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and
Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada,
Feb.
13, 2013.
Videos:  Idle No More Protest, commentary
Joshua Blakeney

The International Human Rights Association of American Minorities supports and stands with
the indigenous nations of Canada  opposing  a Federal “omnibudget” bill, including Bill C-45,
(Jobs and Growth Act 2012) passed by the Government of Canada on December 14th, 2012,
and the related Harper legislative agenda (see left and menu above).

Bill C-45 provides for unconstitutional land surrenders by aboriginal people to the
government. It restricts debate and discussion of proposed amendments to the status of
reserved lands within a community. This Bill lowers criteria for the surrender of Reserve
lands, even creating powers for the Minister to call a meeting, ask a Band to surrender their
lands, and hold a binding simple majority vote to surrender Reserve land, and to expedite this
process without consensual participation of the First Nation's people or their leaders.

This Bill has been rushed through Parliament without appropriate consultation with
indigenous nations or their full understanding of its long-term impact.  The third and final
reading was completed the morning of December 14th, ahead of schedule, the Governor
General was present to formalize Royal assent, and Parliament was then immediately
dissolved.

Earlier in December 2012, 300 Chiefs gathered outside Parliament to show their opposition to
this and several more pieces of legislation mentioned below. Many more hundreds of people
were there behind them to demonstrate the depth of that opposition. Instead of recognizing
the belated actions of the Chiefs, who had only just become aware of the extent of the Prime
Minister’s plan, security guards scuffled with three of the indigenous leaders and prevented
them from entering Parliament.

The federal government has passed legislation which flouts the ruling of the Supreme Court
of Canada.  The Court asks, as a criteria for introduction of legislation which impacts aboriginal
people in Canada, "Has there been a reasonable effort to inform and consult with respect to
the implementation of legislative measures?" (Nikal, 1996) Canadians believe that Canada is a
rule of law society, but  Bill C-45 seriously impacts aboriginal people in Canada without
meaningful consultation. While there has been some media coverage of indigenous protest,
the issue has not been contextualized in a way which makes the implications of this and the
rest of the Harper legislative agenda, which is geared to unilaterally and grievously changing
the already desperate situation of indigenous peoples in Canada, comprehensible to the
Canadian public. The agenda is, in IHRAAM’s view, geared to unilaterally changing the already
desperate situation of indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Bill passed by parliament on December 14, 2012 is in flagrant disregard of the most basic
international human rights declarations and conventions. So are the further proposed Bills
which pertain to all indigenous peoples—treaty nations as well as  indigenous nations with
whom no treaty has been concluded, and who continue to assert their land and sovereignty
rights.

The legislative agenda as a whole seeks to unilaterally impose on native peoples changes that
will ultimately result in their further impoverishment and disempowerment.  The agenda is also
in direct contravention of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, which, in Section 25, states:

    The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so
    as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that
    pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including

    (a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of
    October 7, 1763; and
    (b) any rights or freedoms that may be acquired by the aboriginal peoples of Canada by
    way of land claims settlement.(15)

and in Section 35(1) states:

    The government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to the
    principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 of the
    "Constitution Act, 1867", to section 25 of this Act or to this Part,

    (a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the
    proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers
    of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and

    (b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of
    Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.

Those rights include substantial obligations to indigenous nations, such as the legal
requirement that Canada must first purchase, in a consensual transaction, any lands before
assuming jurisdiction over them or ownership of them.

Having failed to purchase the lands in the constitutionally prescribed transaction, having
failed to honour those treaties which it did enter into with indigenous nations, having then
attempted to forcibly assimilate some native nations through the
Residential Schools Act,
Canada resorted to imposing alien forms of leadership on indigenous nations via the
Indian
Act
— and used that leadership as indirect administration. The Indian Act Chiefs and Councils
administer social and economic policy imposed on them by and for the government of Canada
to the detriment of the aboriginal nations concerned.

That the Canadian government has now decided the
Indian Act is a discretionary piece of
legislation which it may unilaterally dissolve or meaningfully alter irrespective of the obvious
negative impacts on the rights and even cultural survival of indigenous peoples or to its own
status as a country ruled by law and democratic processes is a shocking development in
Canadian politics. The negative impacts on the rights and even cultural survival of indigenous
peoples, to say nothing of Canada’s reputation as a rule of law country, are obvious, illegal,
and unacceptable.

The following is a very brief summary of examples of aspects of this suite of legislation to
which IHRAAM takes exception (for more information follow links above):

Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act.
This Bill attempts to relieve the federal government of Canada of its constitutional, fiduciary
and treaty obligations to aboriginal peoples in Canada by unilateral assertion. This is illegal.

Bill S-212 First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill.
Arbitrary division of community-held Reserve Lands into individual parcels, and the loss of
status as “lands Reserved for the Indians,” as enshrined in Section 91-24 of the Constitution
Act of 1867. This Bill does not speak to respecting aboriginal self-government but instead to
ensuring that no such thing will be possible.

Bill S-6 First Nations Elections Act.
The bill establishes a legislative process apart from the
Indian Act system for the election of
indigenous nations Chiefs and councils. Among the key changes provided by the proposed
legislation is the optional arbitrary extension of the terms of office for Chiefs and councils by
Canada, and the possibility that indigenous nations may be brought under the new elections
regime by ministerial order in some circumstances. This is a violation of the right to self-
determination, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights.

Bill S-2 Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act.
Legal rights can be given to non-Indians over lands on Reserve. This would be the implosion
of the legal concept of “lands Reserved for the Indians,” and also an illegal dispensation
since there is no agreement by the indigenous to this imposition.

Bill C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
Indigenous nations' administrations will be required to disclose every aspect of their financial
life to the public, from source revenue to business revenue. Canada may use this information
to justify cutting funding allocations which are fiduciary obligations to indigenous nations.  
Indigenous nations are already required to file as many as 168 reports yearly, forcing their
staff to spend their time fulfilling reporting requirements rather than addressing band well
being.

Bill S-8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.
The federal government will delegate its obligations to ensure good health, in terms of safe
and standard household access to drinking water, by sub-contracting that obligation to a
province or private company. The government delegates its fiduciary accountability to the
contracting party, and limits its liability to the level of the provincial crown.  Acts of delegation
of federal authority to provinces seek to remove the nation-to-nation aspect of federal
obligations, as well as the linkages of treaties to application of the Vienna Convention on the
Law of Treaties.
.
Bill S-207: An Act to amend the Interpretation Act.
This Bill seeks to limit if not dispose of non-derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights.
IDLE NO MORE group gathered in front of parliament
An international NGO in consultative status with the United Nations