After hearing of the inequity faced by many in Saskatchewan, people wonder, what can we do? Here's a group of women who have some answers.
As I am reading through their goals, principles, and request for help, I'm remembering that saying, "Think globally, act locally." I can advocate for change in Fort Qu'Appelle. I can stand with local leaders who are making a difference in our community. I can reach out, we can reach out -- to one child, one woman, one family at a time -- and share the power.
Joyce Night: Executive Director, Saskatchewan First Nation Women’s Commission
The women were not signers but were instrumental in the decision-making during the Treaty process.
Chief Ahtakakoop from the Treaty 6 area said, “Let us not think of ourselves but of our children’s children.”
Chief Mistawasis from the Treaty 6 area said, “What I speak of shall last as long as the sun shines and the waters flow and for our children.”
The Saskatchewan First Nation Women’s Commission (SFNWC) is the recognized regional voice for the advancement of First Nation women’s and children’s rights in Saskatchewan. The mandate of the SFNWC is the development of First Nation women’s rights and advocate for the development of women’s strategic initiatives with respect to our Inherent and Treaty rights.
Our First Nation governments have the right and responsibility to govern their peoples in their respective territories under their own laws, customs, and traditions. The SFNWC will work to:
· ensure issues facing First Nation women and children are respected and recognized;
· advocate in the collective interests of the First Nation women, children, families and First Nation communities; and
· carry out our responsibility to our children to protect their rights – they are our future generation and they have rights to their customs, traditions and practices to be lived out on our traditional territories.
The foundational principles of the SFNWC are:
· to ensure a true gendered analysis is respected and utilized in all areas: health, justice, child and family services, lands and resources, housing, education, and economic development;
· to create positive and social change in all areas and to improve the lives of our women, children and families;
· to acknowledge the rights of all First Nation women and children; and
· to establish institutions, corporate entities, commissions, working groups or committees to assist in undertaking its authority and principles.
Federal government legislation that impacts directly on First Nations women and families include:
· Bill S-2: Matrimonial Real Property Bill – Canada has a duty to consult us and assist us with the additional costs to establish new laws that will impact on housing, residency, land management, citizenship, policing, and dispute resolution processes. The SFNWC has drafted a template to assist First Nations in developing their own laws. We had a two-day information session with the Treaty Governance Office (TGO) and the Justice Secretariat. We will be hosting another law-making forum soon.
· Citizenship – Membership/residency has been researched by TGO and SFNWC, with the intent of developing our own citizenship laws to protect our children and families. A Citizenship Framework Act will be introduced for consultation with our people in this fiscal year.
· The repeal of Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act means that First Nations governments and individuals come under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Act. While not bad in itself, the Act is imposed legislation and we will set our own standards that govern our individual and collective rights in our communities and Nations.
· AANDC Policy on Disclosure of Paternity – Human Rights. Only in Canada is the identification of paternity needed to ensure the rights of the child is honored. The rights of many of our First Nations children with single mothers are in jeopardy because of this discriminatory policy.
· Bill C-31 continues to be applied in a discriminatory fashion even after Bill C-3 was passed as a result of the McIvor decision.
The SFNWC will continue:
· to assist First Nation communities to define their own matrimonial real property and citizenship laws based on traditional and inherent rights and laws that define status from a First Nations governance perspective; and
· to address the current issues from a First Nation traditional perspective in areas of a First Nation HIV/AIDS strategy, FAS/FASD strategy, family violence initiatives, missing persons, First Nation search and rescue, and First Nation missing and murdered women.
The SFNWC is asking for your support:
· to continue to assist First Nations in implementing the Inherent and Treaty rights based legislation;
· to ensure that all development of women’s governance systems and strategic initiatives are consistent with the Treaty Implementation Principles;
· to continue to advocate for women, children and families; and
· to establish the First Nations Women’s Institute and address the socio economic barriers, challenges and obstacles facing First Nation women, children and families.
As women, we are always looking ahead to the safety of children and grandchildren. At the same time we must be aware of Treaty and Inherent rights. The Women’s Commission will be re-visiting the 10 Treaty principles that have been spoken of today and will come together with Tribal Councils and First Nations. We will work to implement Inherent and Treaty rights along with everyone else within the Federation of Nations.