After reading my friend Glenn Martin’s guest column in the April 30, 2011 issue of The Terrace Standard, I would like to clarify a few points.
Case law, or the law of the land as established by our courts, already recognizes First Nation inherent right of self government. In fact the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes the band council as a local government for the purposes of tax exemption.
The Constitution Act and underlying Charter of Rights and Freedoms already recognizes and affirms the inherent right to self government by virtue of Sections 25 and 35.1 under existing rights and rights that may be acquired.
In addition Section 15.2 states that, “any law, program, or activity that has as its objective the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or group…” The Supreme Court of Canada has established that Section 15.2 applies to legislation and programs that address First Nations economic, social, environmental interests, as the case may be.
Further Section 36 speaks to the Crown’s ability to ensure that legislation and laws promote equalization and its ability to deal with regional disparities to all people. Regarding First Nations governance: there is no need for the constitution to be amended because there are enough tools to address the issues fully. What is lacking is the will of statutory decision makers to craft solutions that the courts and the constitution affirm shall happen.
Consequently we have wasted valuable time and taxpayers money attempting to reconcile rights and title interests with the Crown’s interests at the treaty table, land claims, specific claims, and litigation. To date we have been unsuccessful because we run into the bureaucratic stonewall called mandate.
There is no mandate to reconcile aboriginal rights and title. There is only the mandate to extinguish and modify – a mandate inconsistent with the constitution and case law. Driving the current thinking and mandate is fear of setting bad precedent.
What we need is leadership in Ottawa, Victoria, city hall, and band council to move beyond fear and rhetoric so we can provide the direction on legal objectives, legislation, and policy to change the pathetic status quo. Proof it can be done is in Kitamaat with Rio Tinto Alcan, Kitimat LNG, and West Fraser, where we reconciled aboriginal rights and title. The world did not crash and we prosper though collaboration.
Lastly, one of the First Nation gifts to the new world was the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy. Since 1640 that model has advocated consensus-based decisions making to the Six Nations. Women have equal standing. No need to improve on that!
Steve Wilson, Thornhill, BC
(Editor’s note: Steve Wilson is a former Haisla First Nation chief councillor.)