Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett went on a whirlwind trip to Vancounver at the end of July to sign a series of agreements with west coast Indigenous groups.
The agreements are Memorandums of Understanding through which the government promises to work with a specific Indigenous group or a group of chiefs on important issues for their communities. Every agreement is different – covering health, education, infrastructure and housing or making a general agreement to begin working together on the path to Indigenous self-governance in Canada.
The Crown’s agreement with the Secwépemc Nation and the province of British Columbia, signed on July 23, sets out a framework for a government-to-government relationship where both parties work toward giving the Secwépemc Nation “jurisdiction over children and families.”
iPolitics did not receive a reply from the nation by the time of publication, but tribal chief Kukpi7 Wayne Christian expressed his optimism in a statement with his government counterparts.
“This MOU represents reconciliation in action,” he wrote. “The MOU sets a foundation to rebuild our governance – our families.
“By the utilization of our language and laws we will ensure Secwépemc Identity for the next ten thousand years. Our children Our Jurisdiction Our Laws Our future.” Perry Bellegarde is sworn in after being re-elected as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver, B.C., on July 25. He won 328 of the 522 votes in a second ballot, giving him just over the 60 per cent needed to be elected as leader for a second term. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms However, the minister’s timing is interesting. Two days later, Bennett made an appearance at the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting right before their election for national chief. She was there to speak to Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras and her caucus of chiefs from the province. Her appearance sparked outrage from Indigenous leaders and academics across the country, who accused her of election interference.
[READ MORE: AFN advised Bennett to stay away from election day gathering: sources ]
The minister refused to address the allegations directly the next day. Instead, she delivered a speech explaining the government’s plans to encourage self-governance of Indigenous peoples across the country.
“That’s what we really want to talk about this morning,” Bennett said. “How do we permanently get Ottawa out of the way? As we heard from candidates on Tuesday, the status quo is not okay.”
After her morning meeting at the AFN, Bennett signed another memorandum of understanding with the Metis Nation of British Columbia to “renew and strengthen their government-to-government relationship” and promote a shared vision of reconciliation.
Article three of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) says the right of self-determination for Indigenous peoples means “they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
When the Declaration was presented to the United Nations in 2007, Canada was one of four countries who did not sign on to the document that solidifies the rights of Indigenous peoples under international law.
UNDRIP got recognition from the government in 2010 under former prime minister Stephen Harper. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, holds a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on October 15, 2013. A new United Nations report says while there have been some positive steps in Canada’s relationships with its aboriginal people, much more needs to be done. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick However, the implementation of the Declaration hasn’t made its way through federal institutions just yet. Bill C-262, an Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in […]
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