The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has passed a resolution calling for Canada's national railways to voluntarily shut down during the group's "day of action" on June 29. (CTV)
I hope, but don't expect, that the railways will indeed consider this request and show some support for the First Nations. It's the least they could do. But then again, they have been profiting off land illegally obtained from aboriginal peoples for years - perhaps it's too much to hope they'd change.
As Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation said: "... There are only two ways of dealing with the white man. One, either you pick up a gun, or you stand between the white man and his money... I prefer to stand between the white man and his money."
And now for your reading pleasure. And note: This was written by senators. Yes, fuddy, duddy old senators (not the hockey players).
Oka, Ipperwash, Caledonia.
Blockades, masked warriors, police snipers.
Canada's failure to address and resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations.
Imagine your new neighbour comes into your backyard and fences off half of it. Then he sells it to someone down the street. This new neighbour tells you he got a good deal but he won't say how much he got. Then, he says that he'll take care of the cash – on your behalf, of course.
Maybe he even spends a little on himself.
You complain. He denies he did anything wrong.
What would you do?
Go to the proper authorities? Turns out that the authorities and their agencies work for him.
Sue him? He tells you that none of the lawyers can work for you – he's got every one in town working for him. When he finally lets a lawyer work for you – it turns out that he can afford five of them for every one you can afford.
Finally he says: Okay, I'm willing to discuss it. But first you have to prove I did something wrong. Oh, and I get to be the judge of whether you've proved it. And, if you do prove it, I get to set the rules about how we'll negotiate. I'll decide when we've reached a deal and I'll even get to determine how I'll pay the settlement out to you. Oh, and I hope you’re in no rush because this is going to take about twenty or thirty years to settle.
Welcome to the world of Indian Specific Claims. Specific Claims arose when Canada and its agents failed to live up to Canada’s responsibilities in connection with First Nations' lands, monies and assets. In some cases Canada didn't give them the land they were promised in the treaties. In some cases, they got the land only to have it taken away again – in a way that violated Canada's own rules. In other cases, federal employees actually stole Indian land, money or other assets.
Until the 1950s, First Nations were prohibited by law from hiring lawyers to pursue these claims – many of which date back 70, 100 or 200 years. Since then impoverished Indian communities have had to fight the federal government in court or else persuade it to acknowledge the claim and negotiate a settlement. Currently, everything is done on Canada's terms and the government is both defendant and judge.
With few resources allocated to find solutions, it can often take twenty or more years from the time a First Nation comes forward with a claim to finally reaching a settlement.
Despite the amazing hurdles, almost 300 claims have been settled. In every case where they have been settled, it has meant an immediate improvement in the lives of First Nations people. It has also strengthened relations between Canada and those First Nations and between those First Nations and the communities that surround them. Settling outstanding claims is not only the just thing to do, it is the smart thing.
Close to 900 claims sit in the backlog. Things are getting worse rather than better. First Nations have been patient – incredibly patient – but their patience is wearing thin. [Emphasis mine]
- Gerry St. Germain, P.C., Chair, and Nick G. Sibbeston, Deputy Chair, Forward to NEGOTIATION OR CONFRONTATION: IT’S CANADA’S CHOICE. Final Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples Special Study on the Federal Specific Claims Process Full report here (PDF)