Saturday, December 29, 2012
Why haven't we settled this?
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/touch/story.html?id=7755094 John J. Noble, Retired Canadian Ambassador and Former Chief Federal Negotiator for two treaty tables in B.C. and Special Ministerial Representative for the Denesuline North of 60° Out of Court Negotiations. © Copyright (c) Ottawa Citizen ... The main responsibility for our broken system lies with successive governments and so-called moral leaders (i.e. the established churches) who tried to assimilate the Native peoples. The current system is designed to keep the pot from boiling over, leaving all major steps forward to the courts, which is a lengthy and expensive process for First Nations. That is convenient for any sitting minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, since he or she can be sure they won't be in that post when the issue is finally resolved by the Supreme Court and the decisions have to be implemented (or not). Similarly, the treaty process created after the 1982 Constitution recognized aboriginal rights and title without specifying what that means is slow, cumbersome and designed to move at a snail's pace, if at all. First Nations in the treaty process have to mortgage part of the benefits of any new treaty to pay for their share of the negotiating costs which drag on for years. Aboriginal and Northern Affairs has responsibility to lead these negotiations, but they are often hampered by the low priority given to these negotiations by other departments. Justice has to provide lawyers to the federal teams and demand exceeds supply; Fisheries and Oceans tries hopelessly to "manage" the demands on fish between aboriginal rights, commercial and sports fisheries, which has basically shut down the treaty process in B.C.; DND often has unused land which it guards jealously for some imagined future contingencies; Finance is preoccupied by the costs of the contingent liabilities and tries to ensure limited progress on a limited number of files; and the list goes on. A former senior official in Aboriginal Affairs told me that "the only thing worse for a government than not getting a treaty is getting a treaty." Canadians have created a system for First Nations which doesn't work and which has and continues to cause tremendous hardship. Yes, there are examples of greedy selfish band leaders, but there are also many more honest and hard-working leaders who are trying to meet the impossible demands and expectations of their young and growing membership. Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves credit for his heartfelt apology over the residential schools issue, but he hasn't followed through in making that apology meaningful by translating words into actions. This is not a partisan issue and can only be rectified with a concerted effort supported by all federal political parties and their provincial counterparts. If she wants to look into the future about