Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chief Perry Bellegarde, Little Black Bear First Nation, at Chief's Forum on Treaty Implementation

When I travelled to Holland, Belgium, England, Ireland and Scotland in 1988, I was proud to wear the Canadian flag on my backpack. Our maple leaf hangs in my classroom at the front. When I walk by the All Nations Healing Hospital each morning, I delight in the red and white waving on the wind. I love Canada. I am a devoted citizen.

So when I hear Chief Perry Bellegarde quote the UN in reference to Canada, I take it pretty seriously:  “The United Nations calls for a comprehensive strategy to uphold the human rights of the Indigenous people in Canada,” and “Why, in a country as rich as Canada, Indigenous people are 63rd in quality of life? What strategies do you have in place to alleviate that socio-economic gap?”

I love my country, but do I love it enough to see its inadequacy? I am a devoted citizen, but am I willing to step up as a treaty partner? I believe in the Creator, but am I willing to consider treaty as a sacred covenant?

-- Sheena

Perry Bellegarde:  Chief, Little Black Bear’s Band

We know that First Nations exercised the Inherent right to self-determination when our forefathers entered into Treaty with the Crown in right of Great Britain.  Can any of us say these Treaties have ever been implemented according to their spirit and intent?  The Crown in right of Canada now has a huge responsibility for implementing Treaty and so do we.

The first article in the Treaties states that at an appointed place, we will meet annually with representatives of the Crown to discuss all aspects of Treaty and to receive our annuities.  Our Treaty 4 land in Fort Qu’Appelle, the original Treaty grounds, is that first article of Treaty.  That land brought our people back together and it transcends provincial boundaries.  It is where we meet on the anniversary of Treaty-making [September 15].

AFN, FSIN and FHQTC are not party to Treaty but I expect those organizations to assist Treaty territories in any way they can to facilitate Treaty implementation.  FSIN organized this Forum so to Vice Chief Watson and your team, thank you.  We have to acknowledge them and hold them up even though we know they’re not a party to Treaty – we are – but we thank them for what they’re doing.  We need to build upon it now.

There is no question about the nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown or our sovereignty.  But how many in this room travel on their own passport?  The Haudenosaunee have their own passport which is an expression of their nationhood, sovereignty and jurisdiction.  We should be able to impose our own passports for international travel.

Our organizations are too dependent on government – AFN, FSIN, Tribal Councils.  We won’t have really effective organizations until we have our own independent source of revenue and funding for our organizations and our nations and that’s one of the things we have to start focussing on.  In gaming, we give 25% to the province – take that back and fund our own Federation to be truly independent.  At one time, I asked our name to be changed to Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.  It is still the FSIN. 

A month ago a number of Chiefs went to Geneva to make presentations to CERD.  We lobbied the different countries of the world about Canada not implementing Treaties and the way they deal with Indigenous peoples.  The UN slammed Canada on its treatment of First Nations peoples:  “The United Nations calls for a comprehensive strategy to uphold the human rights of the Indigenous people in Canada.”  So pressure is starting to happen at the UN level against Canada and this is the result of one meeting in Geneva.  We have to continue to work the international arena.

In Geneva, we talked about the need for a Treaty Commissioner appointed by Parliament who would work to ensure that Canada honours its obligations under Treaty and to implement sec.35; not as an agent of the Prime Minister or a Minister, but Parliament.  That’s a way to give legal effect to the Treaties.  CERD also recommended a process to implement UNDRIP.  We told them, if you use the UN Human Development Index, Canada is rated 6th but if you apply that to Indigenous peoples, we’re rated 63rd in terms of quality of life.  Canada was embarrassed in front of the world because they questioned Canada, “Why, in a country as rich as Canada, Indigenous people are 63rd in quality of life?  What strategies do you have in place to alleviate that socio-economic gap?”  That was asked of Canada.

At Little Black Bear, we’re passing resolutions stating that we’re signing contribution agreements pursuant to Treaty 4 and pursuant to UNDRIP.  

The NRTA has gone unchallenged.  Governments and industry continually take the resources but we’re not doing anything to stop it. Either you look at a legal fight, or blockades, or international political pressure.  Something has to be done to create economic instability.  Governments will continue to issue licenses and permits without consultation, without free, prior and informed consent, without consideration of Treaty rights and obligations. Treaty 4 is looking at a legal challenge and we raised that at the international level.  We must believe in our Elders teachings about the spirit and intent of this sacred covenant that we call Treaty. The comment that resonated with me most today were statements of the spiritual connection, the covenant, is the most important thing to remember as we go forward in Treaty implementation.

It will be necessary to utilize domestic mechanisms as well as international forums.  CERD recommended that Canada have 3 years to implement UNDRIP and develop federal structures to implement Section 35.

page 42-43 , 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 Dan.Bellegarde@fsin.com

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