First Nations & the Green Party

 

The Green Party would like to express its deepest respect to the First Nations people of Canada and would like to voice its concern on the injustices and challenges that continue to afflict the Aboriginal Peoples and threaten the future of your societies.

 

We are still a long way from integrating Aboriginal wisdom into Canadian’s everyday life and from formally valuing the richness of your heritage. Aboriginal rights, lifestyles, and worldviews have been largely marginalized in government policy. What could have been a more productive and harmonious exchange over the course of centuries has turned into a colonial structure of governance.

 

First Nation peoples continue to struggle for the settlement of land claims, your right to self-determination, and the implementation of treaties. There has been an inability to adopt creative solutions not only in the fiscal relations area but also in democratic processes and justice systems, which are largely inappropriate to your needs and culture.

 

Moreover, there has been little recognition of past government injustices, which have many times left you in very vulnerable conditions. Many basic services such as education, healthcare, and housing are severely underdeveloped in aboriginal communities. The most worrisome part is that right now, systemic discrimination and injustices still prevail on a large scale.

 

We have much to learn from traditional aboriginal knowledge. For thousands of years, you have lived sustainable and rewarding livelihoods in harmony with nature’s cycles. You are the first ones to recognise our ultimate dependence on a healthy environment and the need to act collectively for the sustainable management of our resources. Your medicinal knowledge, language, and every other aspect of your social life reflect this understanding.

 

The Green Party would like to honour Aboriginals for having opened so many doors to Canadians, shared so much precious knowledge, and for offering so many opportunities to the development of a greener and long-lasting society. It is now time to take responsibility for the past and present injustices and start working closer with native people. We have much more to learn from the world of aboriginal knowledge and culture.

 

 

Green Party position on First Nations relations

 

Canada's First Nations people have always exerted their aboriginal rights and sovereignty. As the Canadian government has not upheld the integrity and rightful status of Aboriginal peoples, the Green Party - when elected to government - will issue a full apology for the decades of neglect. The Green Party will act to protect and preserve aboriginal lands and cultures. We will work toward honourable settlements within a "nation to nation" negotiations framework.

 

As the local MP I would implement an “MP advisory committee” with representation from the Saugeen First Nation & Cape Croker communities to ensure that you have a voice in the implementation of local policy as it relates to Federal politics.

 

I also would work toward region-wide environmental renewal and protection programs with First Nations involvement and/or leadership, as I believe we have much to learn from your culture in regard to our relationship to the earth.

 

I believe that what Aboriginal people need is straightforward, if not simple:

·        control over their lives in place of the well-meaning but ruinous paternalism of past Canadian governments

·        lands, resources and self-chosen governments with which to reconstruct social, economic and political order

·        time, space and respect from Canada to heal their spirits and revitalize their cultures

 

 

Aboriginal Peoples: Justice through Reconciliation

 

The Canadian government has a grim record of overtly racist policies and consistent mismanagement on issues relating to Aboriginal peoples. Only by acknowledging our past mistakes will we be able to move forward. Today, Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are overrepresented in infant mortality, school dropout and suicide rates. In Manitoba, 50 per cent of the prison population is made up of aboriginals even though 12 per cent of the population is native. The Green Party recognizes Aboriginal rights and title, and supports speedy reconciliation processes.

First Nations have explained that these problems stem as much from a lack of adequate funding, as from a denial of their nationhood. The right to self-government, the right to control their own destiny and manage their resources is fundamental in building healthy and confident aboriginal communities.  

The future of aboriginal land and aboriginal land claims is the future of Canada’s environment. We can share our land and our resources and establish true nation-to-nation dialogue. We can share the objectives and challenges of sustainable development to develop new and prosperous economies in aboriginal communities. We can stop hate crimes and institutionalized racism and recognize the cultural, political and economic contributions of First Nations, the Inuit, Innu and Métis people.

 

Green Party MPs will press the Government to:

 

- Honour Canada's fiduciary responsibility and all aboriginal, treaty and other rights of Aboriginal Peoples, including their inherent rights of self-government.

- Implement the recommendations of the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, thereby embarking on true nation-to-nation negotiations on a full range of outstanding legal issues and land claims.

- Negotiate and legislate primary hunting, fishing, trapping and logging rights for Aboriginal Peoples on traditional lands, especially lands under federal jurisdiction, subject to standards of sustainable harvesting.

- Launch and maintain new processes driven by Aboriginal priorities and legal entitlements, to address governance issues, a just and fair share of lands and resources, legislative inconsistencies, policy inequities, reconciliation and – according to the wishes of First Nations – the phased-out elimination of the Indian Act.

- Promote Aboriginal culture, language and history as a fundamental source of Canadian identity.

- Support the development of Aboriginal education curricula that is language and culture specific.

- Assist the delivery of health care, education and other services in a way that incorporates traditional practices, recognizing the role of extended families and elders.

- Address the unique issues surrounding the treatment of Aboriginals in the Canadian justice system

- Establish a federal-provincial task force to address and investigate the disappearance of Aboriginal women.

 

 

Background to Green Party Policy

 

 

Self government

The aboriginal peoples who signed treaties considered them to be more than simply resigning their rights to certain tracts of land. The aboriginal people understood the treaties to be solemn undertakings of the Crown, which acknowledged the self-governing powers of aboriginal peoples - a guarantee that the aboriginal peoples would be able to continue to live their lives in much the same way they had before the arrival of the Europeans. However, the federal government refused to understand the treaties in the same way. When the British North America Act of 1867 established the law-making powers of the federal government, Section 91(24) gave the federal government responsibility over "Indians and Lands reserved for Indians." Section 91(24) established the power of the federal government over aboriginal people and undermined the importance of the treaties.

Today, many non-aboriginal Canadians are puzzled by the term 'aboriginal self-government'. Why should aboriginal people be able to govern themselves? However, to aboriginal peoples, land claims and self-government are the principal means to preserve their cultures, their languages, and their economic well being. The source of the aboriginal right to self-government flows from their inherent rights, which they believe they received from the Creator. The right to self-government also flows from the treaties. To aboriginal people, the treaties are not ancient and forgotten promises, but current and contemporary documents which prove the self-sufficiency of their people and the responsibility of the federal government

They want to find a secure place in the world which has been forced upon them. Indian treaties, Indian reserves, Indian Acts - these are all institutions designed by Europeans and Euro-Canadians to manage aboriginal people primarily for their own convenience. Now, aboriginal people want to develop their own institutions.

 

 

The administration of justice

For many years, aboriginal people have complained that the Canadian justice system treats them unfairly. Several judicial inquiries and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples came to the same conclusion: the justice system has failed Canada's aboriginal people on a massive scale.

Despite being only a small minority of the Canadian population, aboriginal people compose the overwhelming majority of inmates in provincial and federal prisons. For example, in Manitoba, aboriginal people constitute approximately 12% of the population but account for over 50% of prisoners in jail. There are many theories about why aboriginal people are over-represented in Canada's prisons. Crime rates in aboriginal communities are higher than the national crime rate, which is often attributed to low socio-economic status of many aboriginal people. The high unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, substandard housing, inadequate health care and lack of recreational facilities facing aboriginal communities are all said to be factors which lead to crime.

There is profound evidence that racism and systemic discrimination course through the Canadian justice system. Studies show that aboriginal persons are charged with more offences than non-aboriginal persons, are more likely to be denied bail than non-aboriginal persons, spend less time with lawyers, and receive higher sentences when pleading guilty. High profile cases like those of Donald Marshall Jr., Helen Betty Osbourne, and J.J. Harper are extremely visible reminders to aboriginal people that Canada's justice system has not always treated them as equals.

Thus, when the Euro-Canadian justice system is applied to aboriginal communities and their members, many of its fundamental principles are at odds with the culture which governs the behaviour of aboriginal people.

The law has been used to enforce Canadian government control over the lives of aboriginal people, whether the issue was land claims, criminal conduct, child welfare, or hunting and fishing rights. The courts, police, and government bureaucrats have continuously used the law as a tool of oppression.

 

 

Indian Reserves

Education completion rates among First Nations students are the lowest in Canada and the chronic unemployment rates throughout a majority of Indian reserves are higher than those in Atlantic Canada. The inventory of social and material needs in most reserves are substantial.

When these and many other needs are combined with a chronic unemployment rate that is persistently 75% or higher in most reserves, the question must be asked.

Metis and non-status Indians who live in cities, towns or settlements often suffer the same conditions and quality of life of some of the poorest reserves in the country.

Above all, a reserve is a manifestation of a visceral and spiritual connection to the land and tangible, albeit shrunken, evidence to most Indians that they were the original people of this country.

 

 

Health Issues

Aboriginal people believe that this right to health care is based on an inherent legal responsibility of the government to provide health services in lieu of land and resources surrendered throughout the country. Indeed, historical evidence indicates that the future well being of First Nations was a major concern of aboriginal people during the negotiations of treaties.

Nevertheless, despite government assistance, the health conditions of Indian people on reserves and in inner cities continue to be well below national standards. Suicides account for 35% of accidental deaths in the 15-24 age group, a rate almost three times that of the national rate for suicide in this age group. Mortality rates on Indian reserves for violent deaths are three to four times higher than Canadian rates in general. The infant mortality rate, generally considered to be a reflection of underlying disparity in socio-economic conditions and health care services, is roughly double the national average. The magnitude of aboriginal health problems is best understood by examining three different health issues aboriginal people are dealing with: housing, substance abuse, and AIDS.

Until housing improves, the death rates for preventable diseases among aboriginal people will continue to be many times higher than in the rest of Canada.

While it is difficult to find statistical information about the actual or estimated extent of drug and alcohol abuse by aboriginal people, aboriginal court workers have reported that between 80 to 95% of their clients have substance abuse problems, and some Indian reserves report similarly high rates of abuse. What is clear is that the horrific effects of substance abuse - which include suicides, homicides, accidental deaths, a high incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome births, physical and sexual problems, child abuse and joblessness - have infected aboriginal people like a huge illness.

It is clear is that substance abuse, in and of itself, is not the greatest problem facing aboriginal people, but is merely a symptom of many problems facing aboriginal peoples. As more individual aboriginal people recognize and admit that substance abuse is a huge problem, aboriginal communities will be called upon to provide culturally appropriate support to assist healing.

 

 

Land Claims

In the settlement of land claims, aboriginal peoples seek a wide range of opportunities. In some cases, this may mean local renewable resource activities, activities such as fishing and hunting that local people can undertake, that can be locally managed and controlled and that are related to traditional aboriginal values.

Despite major land claims agreements such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Northern Flood Agreement in Manitoba, the Umbrella Final Agreement in the Yukon and the Nunavut Agreement in the Northwest Territories, there continues to be a lack of commitment on the part of the government of Canada to settle the many claims of aboriginal people. With First Nations spread across the country, each having its own individual specific claim, it is difficult for them to sustain sufficient pressure on governments to achieve positive and speedy action on any of the particular claims. This fuels the belief that claims are only settled when there is a show of public anger or violence such as that witnessed in the summer of 1990 in Oka. Unless the federal government makes a strong commitment to settle all outstanding aboriginal land claims, the protests of aboriginal people will continue. Rectifying historic injustices, through the settlement of aboriginal land claims, is vital for the well being of all Canadians.

 

Back