Monday, October 29, 2012

FSIN Senator Sol Sanderson on Structuring our Organizations

The first time, listening to Senator Sol stretched my mind like an elastic and at the end, when his voice let go, my mind soared high. Anything is possible. The second time, listening to Senator Sol stopped my heart. He is casting a vision. I look forward to my third and fourth listens for what Senator Sol will bring to my spirit and the direction he will give my feet.

As I am posting this from the Chiefs' Forum transcript, I now understand what Senator Sanderson means by Chart 1 or Chart 8. In the transcript there are eight detailed charts, (available from Dan Bellegarde, see contact information at the end of the post.)

-- Sheena

Structuring our Organizations

Sol Sanderson:  FSIN Senator, Spokesperson, Treaty 6

Our challenge is not only implementing Treaty but also implementing our sovereignty.  When we examine the Treaties we fail to talk about our Treaty-making powers that are just as valid today as when we made Treaties over 100 years ago with the Crown.  When we examine those treaty-making powers, there are duties and responsibilities associated with them, including a duty and responsibility to implement and enforce those treaties.

The United Nations’ study on the Numbered Treaties confirmed that our Treaties are international in nature.  To maintain their international status, both parties must give legal effect by passing laws under their jurisdiction to implement the provisions, terms and conditions in the Treaty.  No legislation has been passed by representatives of the Crown nor have we legislated laws through our governing structures and our jurisdiction to implement those Treaties.

When we talk about our inherent rights that are granted by the Creator, we are born with them, we inherit them from generation to generation.  One thing was altered on us.  As nations we inherit those inherent rights from our mothers and our grandmothers, the female side of the family.  We did not inherit those rights from the father or the male side of the family.  It was church policy and government policy that changed that.  Nevertheless we do have inherent rights.  Those are our traditions, our customs and practices, spiritual beliefs, language, culture, inherent rights to lands and resources, inherent rights to self-determination which includes governance; inherent rights to education, social development and health, inherent rights to water and air.  We know that when we went to make those Treaties we did not put all Inherent rights on the table for negotiation.  Some are reserved by Treaty-making and remain our responsibility.  A whole range of inherent rights are recognized by Treaty-making.  We can identify which ones were confirmed by Treaty-making in the form of rights and benefits.  It is now 2012 and what have we done to enforce and implement our Inherent rights by giving them legal effect under our laws and jurisdiction as governments of our nations?  We have done nothing.

We have an obligation and responsibility to assert inherent rights and powers impacting on how we form our governments, assert our jurisdiction and implement our laws.  We have to put a strategy in place identifying the structures and institutions we need to implement our sovereignty and Treaties.

The chart on First Nations-Crown relationships (chart 1) shows that Treaties placed conditions on the sovereignty of Canada.  We agreed to formalize political relations both nation-to-nation and government-to-government.  What types of institutions and structures are needed to implement the Treaty relations?  The Parliament of Canada has capacity to create institutions, such as a Treaty Commissioner that reports to Parliament and not to AANDC.  For ourselves, we need institutions and structures governing us at all levels:  First Nation, Tribal Council, Treaty Area, FSIN, Treaty 1-11, and the AFN.  We need a justice system under our jurisdiction and law with our own courts and tribunals.

Another relationship under Treaty is one of livelihood. We need formal recognition of economic relations, but how and in what form?  We need community-based, inter-tribal economies under our jurisdiction and law that cover every sector of the economy.

We need strong fiscal relations between our governments and the Crown to deal with the full financing of First Nations governments by sector.  We also need our own First Nation Departments of Finance.  Canada is proposing an Accountability Act in Parliament to further govern First Nations like another Indian Act.  That accountability is our responsibility.  We should be able to collectively come together to legislate a First Nations Financial Administration Act that deals with fiscal accountability.

When we look at the legal and political structures of government that we need, we must accommodate our capacity to deal with international relations as well as government-to-government bilateral relations.  There is also a requirement for the Crown and the governments of the Crown to examine the type of institutions they need. 
In the next chart (2), I listed our inherent rights, which includes self-determination, nationhood, sovereignty and our forms of government.  But, as you know, we got stuck under the Indian Act for many generations then there was a transition to self-administration.  They called it devolution.  But it wasn’t self-administration, it was administering federal law and jurisdiction not First Nations law and jurisdiction.

Now we’re moving to a new era and implementing our own forms of government.  We are now looking at how we can maintain traditional systems and processes of governing combined with contemporary systems and processes of governing.  The next chart (3) gives some examples.  Families are at the top of the chart as our inherent rights and powers are the collective rights of the families, the membership, not of Chief and Council.  This is one example of how a traditional and contemporary system of governing can be put in place at the community level and from there work our arrangements to delegate certain responsibilities to the Tribal Council and Federation of Nations levels.

We need Treaty Protection Offices at the community level and at the inter-tribal level.  There are many functions for that office relating to the implementation of our powers of self-determination, implementation of our inherent rights and title, and implementation of Treaty, Treaty rights and title.  The office would also be responsible for Treaty relations with Crown, Treaty relations in our own Treaty Areas and within Treaties 1 to 11.

There is a need for curriculum on our Inherent and Treaty rights, our sovereignty and nationhood, and our governing structures including our Federation of Nations in our classrooms right from nursery and kindergarten to grade 12; at the First Nations University of Canada and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology.  Within our education system, we need institutes for First Nations law and governance at the community level, by Tribal Council and Treaty area, and at the Federation of Nations institution level.  We must train and educate our people if we are going to have a successful strategy of capacity building in our communities. 

We must have institutions for information technology and communications to deal with our business needs and arrangements as well as education and training in technology.  Our Treaty Protection Offices should have a multi-purpose data centre that they can access. 

The next chart (4) shows how we can develop new institutions and structures by Treaty area.  We need Secretariats in place to promote our political agenda.  Our leadership spends 85% of their time focussing on administrative issues and 15% on the political agenda.  We need to reverse that and free up our leaders so they can do the political work they are elected to do.  We need to accommodate developments in First Nations communities in respect of their own Treaty areas, such as the Treaty 4 Governance structure.

There are also resolutions from the Treaties 1-11 Gatherings calling for more governance structure in the movement (chart 5).  Furthermore, if there are concerns about AFN and what some may view as inaction with respect to Treaty, then it is up to us to bring those concerns forward and advocate for structures that will meet our needs (chart 6).

The next chart (7) deals with the Federation of Nations.  Within our own FSIN, it is important that we move away from a provincially incorporated body of FSI and come under our own umbrella of corporate law and jurisdiction.  The chart shows the FSIN and how it should be structured under the Convention and Convention Act which need to be implemented under First Nations law and jurisdiction.  New institutions will have to be developed to deal with political relations, Treaty relations, economic relations, fiscal relations, judicial relations and international relations.

The other chart (8) deals with implementing the plans and strategies of the 1980 buffalo jump.  The FSIN, Tribal Councils, institutions and structures are all under provincial law.  We need to develop our institutions under our own law and jurisdiction at the First Nation, Tribal Council and Federation levels.  After 1982, when we first came together as a Federation, I said we need to implement First Nation law and jurisdiction.  We must focus on that now.

There are a number of Secretariats that are needed with appropriate terms of reference for each Secretariat as we move forward collectively.  How do we move forward collectively?  There has to be the political will to develop what we call community-based, inter-tribal implementation agreements for a traditional/contemporary health and social development system, building on Inherent and Treaty rights.  We need these arrangements in all sectors.

It is possible to lever something from Harper’s commitments during the Crown-First Nations gathering on January 24, 2012.  He said that Canada is prepared to review fiscal relations and the financing of First Nations governments, beginning with multi-year funding.  That tells me that there is a possibility of executive management funding to manage our governance capacity and accountability.

We must work to elevate OTC to an institution of Parliament and elevate our Treaty implementation agenda.  The administrative agenda of our Leaders must be changed to a political agenda.  The mandates of our Leaders to implement Inherent and Treaty rights must be supported by our laws and policies that govern our territories and institutions.

Where do we go from here?  Dan Bellegarde heads a Treaty Governance Office.  Let’s elevate it to a Treaty Implementation Secretariat.  Vice Chief Cameron holds the Justice Portfolio which can be elevated to a Judicial Secretariat in the Federation of Nations.  We need a First Nations Department of Education that can be linked to Departments of Education at Tribal Council and community levels.

Some First Nations are protective of their autonomy – but First Nations are participating in provincial education districts and health districts while we have an Education Act sitting on the shelves at FSIN for 15 years.  It was supposed to be implemented collectively by our Federation of Nations and was supposed to be adapted and implemented at the community level.  We have a Child & Family Services Act passed by our Assembly.  It’s sitting on shelves at the FSIN.  We have a Federation of Nations with a Convention Act which requires enforcement of our legislation but which is not being followed.

We need a series of forums on sovereignty, inherent rights to govern, internal affairs, external affairs, international affairs, law-making and other agendas that will form our Nations as we move forward.

In closing, I urge you all to review the draft Terms of Reference that have been included in your kits for the Secretariats and Treaty Protection Offices and give them consideration as we move together to revitalize our Federation and our First Nations.

page 19-22, excerpt from
Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

Dakota Dunes Casino and Conference Center
March 29 & 30, 2012

shared as public document with permission from
Dan Bellegarde, Executive Director, Treaty Governance Office

CD of Chiefs' Forum on treaty Implementation available for $5.00
or free transcript is available
by contacting Dan Bellegarde at

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